The Past Is Red

Tor.com. Jul. 2021. 160p. ISBN 9781250301130. $20.99. SF
The world is underwater, and people live on floating continents made of the refuse disposed of by their predecessors, where they create cities and homes centered around different types of trash. In the first half of the novel, Tetley Abednego is 19, in love with her world, and questioning others’ dreams of dry land. Then she makes a decision that will forever mark her as the most hated person in Garbagetown. Ten years later, Tetley recounts the journey that brought her to her present; one filled with possibility, stagnation, friendship, and even love. As Tetley discovers some truths about the world, she is predominantly cheerful in the face of her struggles and ill-treatment but also critical of the humanity that destroyed the world. Expanded from Valente’s (Deathless) 2016 short story “The Future is Blue,” this novella is both humorous and wistful; its protagonist Tetley is pragmatic as well as idealistic. Tetley’s race is not specified.
VERDICT Valente’s prose presents a stark image of humanity surviving climate ruin, corporate greed, and rich escapists. Tetley’s voice is engrossing, creating a read that will make readers think about our possible future.
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