CBR15 PASSPORT (Stamp #8: New to me author)
CBR15 BINGO (Dwelling square: main character’s childhood home is an additional “character” in the novel)
I gravitate toward interesting book covers and environmental fiction. This ticked both of those boxes. I’m a gardener and spending time poking around in my yard over some 20-odd years makes me hyper-aware of climate change. Annuals becoming perennials. Spring ephemerals showing up earlier and earlier. Late-season bloomers popping up in July instead of September. It’s hard to miss the changes.
I’m in an ongoing and futile battle with a spotted lanternfly invasion right now. I already weathered the marmorated stink bug situation a few years ago that lasted 5 growing seasons. All of that is a pain, but nothing worries me more than the noticeable lack of honey bees. I’ve got bumbles galore, mason bees, and a legion of tiny little bees, but honey bees? Significantly less than when I started tending to my city yard oasis. Those little garden workhorses along with other pollinators keep us alive. Without them we are goners.
In her novel, Dalton creates a believable dystopian future where pollinators have died off and big agro and the government take over. As one would expect, corporations make money on sprawling hand-pollinated greenhouses. They mass produce substandard fruits and vegetables and sell them for outrageous sums of money. Supply and demand, people. Food insecure, unhoused, starving people line up for jobs in these mega greenhouses. Basic needs are barely met.
Before the collapse, Sasha’s father was a scientist studying and raising bees at their farm. After the government outlaws beekeeping, his hives are confiscated but not before he hides his young daughter’s hives in the woods behind their home. When a terrible accident happens, the existence of the secret hives is discovered and her father is arrested. Sentenced to prison when he refuses to turn over his research to the government, Sasha is orphaned. Carrying blame for his arrest and anger at her father for abandoning her rather than turning over his research, Sasha returns to their farm as an adult after years of being in the foster system.
Hellbent on finding the research hidden in her father’s secret lab, her plans are stymied by a group of people who are squatting on her family farm. When she begins to develop a relationship with them it becomes increasingly difficult to keep her past a secret. Sasha is torn between her new found family and the documents that might set her father free and release her from the guilt she has carried for a decade.
I mean, it sounds good, right? The bones are all there but the skeleton never came together. It’s an interesting spin on dystopian fiction and super poignant because of its believability. This isn’t a far-fetched imagining of what the future might hold. Unfortunately, the narrative just chased its tail for 368 pages. Dalton’s characters were interesting and the world she created was rich with detail but somehow it lacked depth. The characters each had one note that they played throughout the story. I think I was looking for growth that never materialized. They seemed to all be straining against the same barriers and never breaking through. Trying to pick the same lock with the same hairpin, in the same way, expecting different results. It’s one of those books that kind of makes me angry. All the puzzle pieces are there but it never gets put together.