“The Korowai Pass had been closed since the end of the summer, when a spate of shallow earthquakes triggered a landslide that buried a stretch of the highway in rubble, killing five, and sending a long-haul truck over a precipice where it skimmed a power line, ploughed a channel down the mountainside, and then exploded on a viaduct below.”
I think if I read and reread this book more than once or twice it would grow in my estimation. I really enjoyed it, and there’s some incredible sharpness here. What I found most compelling about it, and what also might limit it in future readings, is the way in which the novel really interrogates some key aspects of our zeitgeist. Namely, the total haplessness we often feel about the world around us, and where wonder and awe tended to shape that feeling in previous moments, the results of the late-capitalist surveillance state makes it feel enclosed and small to know how much of the world you’re cut off from. Also, while books have been dealing with the ostensible Left’s penchant for self-destruction, this book really captures some of that incredibly well. I tend to think of “cancel culture” — which this book lightly touches upon in a few ways. I know one podcaster who has likened Twitter, and the ways in which Twitter can turn on someone as “The Lottery” and if I am being more bombastic, I think of it like Reign of Terror. Like I said, being bombastic.
I also read this novel with an ear to ground regarding what, if any, connections we have here to Macbeth. The title is a giveaway, but plenty of novels borrow heavily from Shakespeare’s language without borrowing from his ideas. There’s not much Julius Caesar in The Fault in our Stars or in Upon Such a Full Sea. But a reference not to language, but plot (well setting), really suggests that there’s some Macbeth here. And there is. And it’s well-hidden with some reversals and some upendings of who and how the story is told. This not so much a Macbeth story, so much as a story in which Macbeth (and Lady Macbeth, and Duncan, and MacDuff) inhabits.
The book centers on an environmental guerilla gardening group who plant in private property, and especially who attempt to harvest before being discovered. A recent disaster and some news in the South has awakened the group leader Mira to the possibility of a huge space to work. Some recent stirrings in her personal life have also motivated her. On the land, she meets a mysterious American man, an apparent drone-technology billionaire who also has his eyes on the land for his own purposes, and the two begin to circulate each other, especially given that he offers her seed money (ha) to help her group. The story proceeds from there.