In August, LittlePlat wrote about this book and I thought “huh, that sounds up my alley,” and I quickly bought it and started to read it. It took a while to get into, but by the second half of the book I couldn’t put it down, and spent a rainy day at the cottage finishing it up.
I love the world building. Tidal locked planets seem to be a hot topic in sci-fi these days, and I’ve enjoyed reading some of the ideas about how humanity might deal with these kinds of conditions and situations. It reminded me a fair bit of some of Baxter’s work with the Ark books and their follow-ups. The characters were also realistically and dimensionally portrayed, interesting and relatable. They make the kinds of bad choices you can understand and relate to, as much as you cringe and want them to choose better things, you still get it. I enjoyed the extreme contrast between the two major cities on the planet January, and the ways in which people reacted to it. Anders is on point with a lot of her social commentary about humanity, as even the most benign society that seems truly holistic is still harming the natural ecosystem and original inhabitants of the planet. I actually found myself wishing for more of a prequel, so I could find out more about what happened on the Mothership that brought humanity to January, and about the initial explorations of the planet, because I think Anders would do well in that kind of narrative set up too.
But the last section kind of lost me. Spoilers ahead.
You know how the Handmaiden’s Tale ends just as Offred is poised to do something big? This book has the same kind of ending, and it doesn’t seem like it’s setting up for a sequel. Anders also uses the trick of an academic kind of note, this time as the forward, unlike Atwood’s afterwards, and it implies that the solution the book puts forward was a strange subset of humanity that may not have lasted. It’s unsatisfying. The other thing that threw me off is that it gets a bit into body horror with the final section. I understand why Anders has the character choose to alter her body, but as someone who has a visceral reaction to depictions of people turning into alien life forms, it was a bit hard for me to cope with those images in my head, especially because the change IS so extreme. If you can’t handle The Fly or District 9, you may not enjoy this. I get the point she was making, I even like it from a narrative perspective, but man… it’s not something I wanted to think about.