Young Letta becomes wordsmith to her community in a future that follows a climate apocalypse.
A likable protagonist, Letta (white with green eyes and red hair) is the one positive female character in this narrative of resistance and revelation. She is at the mercy of John Noa, the controlling savior of a number of people who joined his Ark just before a warming planet Earth produced massive, devastating floods in an event remembered as the Melting. Noa is obsessed with the potential of the spoken word to influence human conflict and confusion. When Letta chooses to shelter a wounded boy, Marlo, shot as a Desecrator by Noa’s security force, the corruption at the heart of things begins to reveal itself to Letta. Her disillusion deepens when her master goes missing and when a young boy, son of her neighbor, is banished for misusing language. Marlo (sallow-skinned, with blue-gray eyes and black hair) turns out to be part of a largely self-sufficient community living outside the Ark and opposed to Noa’s strictures. Forde’s pacing and characterization are compelling, especially after initial chapters focused on Noa’s truncated List-based language of acceptable words (all English ones) and people’s awkward struggle to speak it. Brief expository passages interspersed with Letta’s story reveal Noa’s thinking and his ugly desire to eliminate the weakness of language.
An intriguing speculation about authoritarian futures with a terrific cover. (Science fiction. 10-14)