Millet imagines a dystopic near future in which the well-heeled make death a family affair.
Their parents have brought Nat, 16, and her brother, Sam, 14, to the island of Hawaii to witness their chosen death in a six-day, drug-drenched farewell ceremony, carefully scripted by its corporate sponsor. Even for the well-off, long life in a world of anoxic oceans and animal extinctions no longer appeals. Like most other kids, Nat’s resigned to a future without parents; rebellious Sam is less accepting. When, from beneath the glossy surface, a disturbing reality begins to emerge, Nat’s emotionally flat narration makes it hard to care. Passive and without affect, she accepts her parents’ choices and later abandons her brother during a horrendous storm with elegiac regret. Despite exposition that’s rarely interrupted by dialogue, this world’s puzzlingly out of focus, real places carelessly portrayed. The novel’s narrative conceit has Nat explaining her story to a hypothetical distant reader. Summarizing the action robs it of suspense and interest: Readers do not see the story unfold and watch characters act and interact, making it difficult for them to interpret their behavior for themselves.
Detail may be the lifeblood of fiction, but storytelling is its pumping heart; without it, this all-premise effort is DOA. (Science fiction. 12-16)