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by Nick Wood

Pub Date: April 15th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-912950-61-4
Publisher: Newcon Press

In this novel, two White South Africans and a Black American must open themselves to change in a near-future dystopia of chronic water shortages and a corporatocracy.

In 2048, life revolves around water. In South Africa and the Federated States of America, the FreeFlow Corporation holds immeasurable power. The wealthy few have enough to drink. They hoard their privilege while the rest of the population struggles to subsist. White South Africans Graham Mason and Lizette Basson live in a gated compound in KwaZulu-Natal. Graham, a hack journalist stuck in his ways, is looking ever more cynically to hold on to what little he has. His frequent absences give his wife time to reflect on their relative prosperity. Lizette becomes involved with the Imbali Township Co-op—an impoverished but socially active collective of traditional landowners holding their shantytown against the bulldozers of corporate “gentrification.” As the world reaches its tipping point, can Graham and Lizette’s marriage survive? Arthur Green is a Black American working for the Environmental Protection Agency, Water Division, in California. Art and his colleagues are fighting a losing battle to protect state-controlled water reserves from corporate malpractice. Art’s efforts are all-consuming but hopeless. When one of his co-workers is killed by corporate heavies—the “Men behind the Gold Curtain”—Art is forced into witness protection. Can he survive to testify and, in doing so reconcile with his estranged wife and daughter? Wood writes in the first person, past tense, cycling a chapter at a time through Graham’s, Lizette’s, and Art’s stories. Whereas the prose is straightforward, the plot and setting create a dense tangle of characters and ideas. Earth in 2048 evidences some futuristic developments—cerebral implants and emergent artificial intelligences—but for the most part forms a depressing, oppressive endpoint for current-day trends. The SF story unfolds slowly and provides little hope. But the author does propose a way forward. Art represents a Black America that has risen above the prejudices leveled against it. Lizette stands for open-mindedness at any age. Graham is a most unlikable character, but even he is forced to change. Together, they speak to unification beyond borders. The message is an important one, albeit not always pleasant to digest.

Well-considered social SF—an engrossing, foreboding, and uncomfortable offering.