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.