This post-apocalyptic novel is a climate change story dressed up with a meteor strike. The meteor allows for a dramatic and epic start to the tale and accelerates the climate change issues our planet already faces. Under this premise, Kowal can force this world into jumpstarting events to tell Elma’s story.
I was reluctant to start reading this book in the summer of 2020 because, well, a country in the grips of a pandemic is already apocalyptic enough for me. However, Kowal does not linger on the immediate after-effects of the meteor strike. She does, however, make it clear that Elma and her husband’s position of privilege (regarding both skin color and occupation) are what insulate them from those issues.
Issues of race, gender, and religion are certainly at constant play throughout this story. Elma confronts her internal bias multiple times, but never to the point of forced performative “white guilt” to beat the reader over the head with a message. It’s a commentary on the reality of the time period and world Kowal is working with, and unfortunately, still a commentary on the world we live in today.
On a more personal level, so much about Elma appealed to me as a reader. Jewish – check. Diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder – check. In a loving, supportive relationship – check. Once again, the book was not “about” any of these particular things. Instead, they came together to create a fully fleshed character who experiences internal and external conflict appropriate to the story. And it’s a hell of a story.
I’ve always been a supporter of the space program (and once upon a time, I dreamed of being a lady astronaut of my own). Today, my spouse and I are regular online watchers of private launches around the world (SpaceX, RocketLab, etc.), and this knowledge made the launches in the book even more exciting to read.
I highly recommend this book to any science fiction reader who ever dreamed about touching the stars.