A young scientist goes on the run when her work becomes the center of a deadly power struggle in this sci-fi thriller.
The Berkeley, California, of 2038 is so smog-ridden that few venture outdoors without an oxygen tank and face mask. For Jessila “Jess” Prentiss, 27, a post-doctoral student in chemistry, the biggest event she’s expecting as her day unfolds is a long-awaited rainstorm, the first in more than a year. When she gets a message from her ex-boyfriend and boss, David Steubingly, 54, asking her to visit, her Keeper (a digital assistant) warns against it. But Jess ignores the advice—only to discover on arrival that large men are beating David. They’re wearing windbreakers marked De Sel, a desalination company that California depends on to grow crops. Confused and in disbelief, Jess starts running, and over the next three days, she’ll barely stop. Matteo Wu, a young man, proves himself surprisingly willing to help; in fact, he’s being paid to track Jess and keep her safe, though he doesn’t know why. As he and Jess work to get off-grid, a difficult task in this well-surveilled world, the players in this chase reveal themselves as influential capitalist interests on the one hand and power-seeking radical environmentalists on the other. Both are interested in a cheap solution for desalinating water—a mystery to Jess, since her work involves wind technology. Deciding whom to trust and how to get out of this situation alive, with conscience intact, will challenge Jess on every level. Moschandreas (We Could Fall, 2015) offers many thrilling, cinematic episodes of capture, concealment, and escape in this novel packed full of telling details about a world 20 years in the future: rich in technology but poor in arable land, drinkable water, and breathable air. Her main characters are well-rounded and sympathetic—Matteo, for example, has a good reason for working at his somewhat shady job. The developing relationship between Jess and Matteo is also nicely handled, slotting in well with the heroine’s trust issues. It’s all capped off with a dramatic and believable finale.
Blazingly paced, exciting, and satisfying—an excellent futuristic tale.