Reviewed for The New Podler Review of Books by Libby Cone
In this fast-paced novel, global warming/climate change is a reality and not a topic for debate. Various groups are working out solutions. A Government Coalition is trying to capitalize on the changes in the environment, taking advantage of citizens of other lands for cheap labor, as it readies a project to dim the sun and, at the same time, harness and monopolize solar energy. Other groups, seen as enemies of the Government, have cobbled together various lifestyles aimed at conserving what is left of resources and avoiding the deadly new dangers posed by the environment, including tigers and methane clouds.
Set against this backdrop is one Jeremy Chutter, an insurance agent who realizes the meaninglessness of insurance as his coastal home slowly floods. He is in mourning for his twin sister and his lover, who died in an automobile accident with Jeremy at the wheel. This understandably causes him to focus on himself and his own needs to the exclusion of most others, except his parents. After learning from his meteorologist friend “Des” Despendra that bundling his folks off (on the airline industry's “Last Flights Day”) to the region of Iktyault may have put them in danger, he strikes out with her and new friend Victor, an ecotravel agent, to rescue them from environmental disaster.
The prose is witty and the futuristic touches are amusing: Jeremy subscribes to a service called “Tinfoil Hat” that blocks out aggressive advertising. Everyone consumes a processed food called “Mete®,” the source of which turns out to be only a little less ghastly than that of Soylent Green.
The journey is compelling but the editing is poor. MacDonald is inordinately fond of the word “leapt,” using it in some cases three times on one page. In a society where auto accidents still occur, huge ships are described as zipping about and parking like MiniCoopers: “...the Prime Minister turned and gestured at the vast ship pulling up to a stop in the harbour behind him...” “...A grey ship the size of a building rumbled past, making the little rescue-dinghy wobble dangerously... the grey ship docked, extending a ramp down from its front...” I think there are pilots and towboats involved when these behemoths come into port. The sun, too, performs some neat tricks: “The sun was lowering behind them, sending shafts of golden light filtering down the streets, turning every color into a perfected version of itself.” That is all well and good, but a few pages later: “The rising sun leached the colour out of the scenery.” I thought the rising and setting sun always looked more golden, giving us the term “the magic hour”?
Jeremy finds new love with a kind and brave truck driver, and Victor early on with Despendra, and each becomes more attuned to the needs of others in the process. As they wander the polluted landscape, the awkward sentences become obstacles akin to the rocks, ice, and tigers in the narrative. But unlike the fish that are going extinct, this book can be saved by more editing.
For more information, please visit the author's website.