In a repressive, future world of rising sea levels, a teenage girl must hide her forbidden emotions from all-powerful authorities—and from her questionable friends and classmates.
In this slickly told YA sci-fi tale
by Redd, a pseudonym of prolific historical fiction author Heather B. Moore (Love
Is Come, 2016, etc.), climate change has brought about the world that
George Orwell famously predicted, only a century or so behind schedule. In
2099, Jezebel is a teenager in a world tormented by ceaseless rainfall. The
last sizable, high-tech city-state, which exists in subterranean complexes on
diminishing high ground, has taken harsh measures to preserve itself: it’s
created generations of kids micromanaged by guards and teachers in a rigid
atmosphere of heavy science education. There are also formal bans on sex,
families, religion, and even emotion, enforced by “Harmony” dermal implants.
Jezebel, however, is a so-called “Carrier” who has free thoughts and feelings;
she struggles not to show them, due to constant monitoring. She may also be
able to activate mysterious, hidden “generators” that could solve the weather
crisis. When she receives an ancestral inheritance, it includes one highly
taboo item—a journal written by her grandmother Rose describing life in
“Before” times, including the terrible offense of falling in love.
Straightaway, government operatives seize Jezebel and run her through an ordeal
of trials and treatments. Have they uncovered her Carrier status, or is Rose’s
journal part of an elaborate loyalty test that also involves Jezebel’s close
friends and fellow prisoners? The story has a timely ecological hook. However,
its scope remains confined to sterile, institutional settings and
totalitarian-nightmare tropes that have a long history in future-shock sci-fi
literature. The reign of terror has droplets of conservatism and evangelicalism
(note the scriptural character names), but it doesn’t get overly preachy about
it. Characterizations tend to be rather stifled, although readers may forgive
that, given the chilly, lockdown environment and a fear-ridden narrator whose
world (and personality) is largely purged of past history and attachments. The
big question of the “generators,” though, remains almost completely unanswered.
In the closing chapters, the author finally opens up the fictional world, which
brings a breath of fresh air to the material. Redd may explore the dystopian
landscape to a greater extent in potential sequels.
A solid but slightly suffocating YA tale of a
dictatorship set in a 2099 that parties like it’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.