Rogers’ debut dystopian novel takes place between two earthen apocalypses.
Oona Kane lives on an unrecognizable Earth after an apocalypse that no living person remembers. The humans returned to the planet generations ago, divided into two isolated groups: poverty-stricken Surv and privileged Selene. Many years after Earth’s repopulation, Oona had the misfortune of being born Surv, and the story focuses on her pursuit of something more after a disastrous, abusive marriage to a cult member. She’s able to accomplish this unthinkable goal not because of a special skill but because her father was instrumental in the survival of Jacob Millhaven, a noted Selene philosopher. Equally as important, Oona figures out how to work the system: She climbs the social ladder one man at a time, discarding each. To her credit, she returns for her daughter and makes a path for her nephew and his friend, but when Oona enters Selene society, she forgets Marcel, the man who helped her cross the social barrier. Once married into Selene society, she’s still not fully accepted despite the uneasy patronage of the philosopher’s son, Eldridge Millhaven. As Oona continues to bridge the two worlds, visiting her family in the Out Country and carelessly showering them with Selene fancies while ignoring their real needs, Earth is crumbling once again in ways no one seems to understand. Oona, for her part, can’t bring herself to be concerned. Despite the dystopian setting, there’s little mention of the government’s controlling nature and the people’s apparent acceptance of it. Right after Oona’s second husband, Raymond, dies, Earth’s evacuation is ordered, with Eldridge offering Oona a spot with him on the first transport. Her refusal sparks some sort of metamorphosis in her after too much navel-gazing, but what exactly happens in her mind isn’t clear. More characterization and scene setting would have benefitted the story by allowing readers to connect to Oona, since she’s a somewhat difficult character to relate to as is. She seemingly brushes everything off and doesn’t allow herself to make emotional connections to the people around her, including her daughter.
The narrative style distracts from a compelling dystopian world.