Politicians confront environmental doom in this prophetic and altruistic tale about the near future.

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WE ARE BUT A MOMENT

A presidential adviser becomes stuck in quarantine after exposure to a deadly pathogen in this political novel.

Lucia Jackson is America’s first Hispanic female president, and 34-year-old Aleks Verdan works alongside her in the White House as an environmental adviser. The tale takes place five years in the future, and it is a time of great ecological crisis. Hurricanes and typhoons have hit hard, pollution is out of control, and epidemics have become the norm. After a debriefing, Aleks learns he was exposed to a disease a doctor brought back from Tunisia, and he is locked away in quarantine for six days. The pod he is kept in is light, efficient, and designed by a genius before IKEA picked up the manufacturing. Aside from the furniture and his antibacterial clothing, Aleks has nothing but his tablet. With minimal communication from his keepers, Aleks pores through the tablet’s files and videos, revisiting his time in government. The portrait of a planet in crisis is harrowing and is tempered by the deft leadership of President Jackson, whose political savvy leads the world toward some sort of healing. Missing his partner, Keon, and distressed to have to be offline for so long, Alek continues his journeys into the recent past, which show an American government that is concerned with the big picture and the greater good but one that makes difficult moral decisions about humanity. As the days wear on, it becomes clear to Aleks that the six-day quarantine may go on longer, leaving him increasingly fearful for not just the globe, but himself. Baer’s (Beggar’s Chicken, 2013) not-quite-dystopian tale offers a frightening premise, and the details about world political, environmental, and health problems are intricate and impressive. The author’s ability to identify difficulties and design solutions through his characters gives the story an almost hopeful feeling about this dreaded future, imperfect as these fixes may be. The book is necessarily digressive, and under those constraints, Baer has managed to fill it with action. But some of the foreign conferences and their endless meetings can become tedious. The distressing ending compensates for all, serving as an indictment of a society in which politics has become a personality contest.

Politicians confront environmental doom in this prophetic and altruistic tale about the near future.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5427-7016-3

Page Count: 382

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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A captivating start to what promises to be an epic post-apocalyptic fable.

THE BOOK OF KOLI

The first volume in Carey’s Rampart trilogy is set centuries into a future shaped by war and climate change, where the scant remains of humankind are threatened by genetically modified trees and plants.

Teenager Koli Woodsmith lives in Mythen Rood, a village of about 200 people in a place called Ingland, which has other names such as “Briton and Albion and Yewkay.” He was raised to cultivate, and kill, the wood from the dangerous trees beyond Mythen Rood’s protective walls. Mythen Rood is governed by the Ramparts (made up entirely of members of one family—what a coincidence), who protect the village with ancient, solar-powered tech. After the Waiting, a time in which each child, upon turning 15, must decide their future, Koli takes the Rampart test: He must “awaken” a piece of old tech. After he inevitably fails, he steals a music player which houses a charming “manic pixie dream girl” AI named Monono, who reveals a universe of knowledge. Of course, a little bit of knowledge can threaten entire societies or, in Koli’s case, a village held in thrall to a family with unfettered access to powerful weapons. Koli attempts to use the device to become a Rampart, he becomes their greatest threat, and he’s exiled to the world beyond Mythen Rood. Luckily, the pragmatic Koli has his wits, Monono, and an ally in Ursala, a traveling doctor who strives to usher in a healthy new generation of babies before humanity dies out for good. Koli will need all the help he can get, especially when he’s captured by a fearsome group ruled by a mad messianic figure who claims to have psychic abilities. Narrator Koli’s inquisitive mind and kind heart make him the perfect guide to Carey’s (Someone Like Me, 2018, etc.) immersive, impeccably rendered world, and his speech and way of life are different enough to imagine the weight of what was lost but still achingly familiar, and as always, Carey leavens his often bleak scenarios with empathy and hope. Readers will be thrilled to know the next two books will be published in short order.

A captivating start to what promises to be an epic post-apocalyptic fable.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-47753-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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