This book has a really strong Catch-22 vibe about it which I think should be enough to get most of you away from this review and onto getting your hands on this book.
Plot: Patrick is a Serious Writer whose book dealing with the death of his father has been optioned for a movie. Understandably, he is very concerned about them getting it right, so he insists on being there for the filming. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know a hell of a lot about contracts, because his role on set is actually as a PA (aka the shit shovelers of Hollywood). So rather than wearing ascots and advising on the movie, he gets to run a lot of errands for very little money. One of those errands is driving around movie star and Whole Mess Cassidy Carter. But that’s not the end of the trouble, because something is very, very rotten out west, and Patrick and Cassidy are sadly the world’s best bet for getting to the bottom of it, even as they escape one wild fire after another, and spend much of their day simply trying to secure access to water. Shenanigans ensue.
I’ve been reading a lot of minute-in-the-future novels lately, I’ve noticed. I think we may have, as a species, sort of moved away from the idea that we’re still going to be around to have stories told about us a thousand years from now. Indeed, if you’re looking for a hopeful view of humanity’s future, look elsewhere (may I suggest Star Trek?), because Kleeman’s forecast is BLEAK. I mentioned at the top that the book has a Catch-22 vibe, and it is that sort of fatalistic humor that moves you through the book. In response to the endless droughts in California, a company has successfully manufactured an alternative, called WAT-R. This is what now flows through people’s homes, what they bathe in, what they drink. Don’t worry though, there are lots and lots of options and subscription plans for you to choose from.
Indeed, as you read, you realize that the plot – the movie, the Scooby Doo adventure Patrick and Cassidy are on – are really just the bones to hang the real story on. A story of a planet in crisis made to feel personal and immediate. Patrick’s wife and daughter, for example, left home at the same time Patrick went to Hollywood, only they went north to a camp dedicated to mourning the planet, one lost species at a time. The climate crisis is not only immediate, it is actively chasing the characters in this book around like Freddie Krueger.
This is the kind of book that you will be unpacking for ages and a fabulous pick for a book club.
I will warn you though that as Proper Literature, the book spends a lot of time up its own ass. There is a LOT of philosophical ponderings scattered throughout the book, in dialogue and the narration. This is not a good thing or a bad thing. I vibed with the ponderings for the most part and happily followed the text up its butt, but this is not going to be a book for everyone, and that’s fine.