Tor. Sept. 2019. 576p. ISBN 9781250165268. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250165244. FANTASY
DEBUT By the year 2060, Earth’s environment has declined so dramatically that strict global measures were enacted, including restrictions on breeding, forced relocations to high-density interior cities, and an end to capitalism. Now, in 2100, “the bounceback” is in full swing. The populations of Earth have traded privacy for stability, accepting constant surveillance through implants for a base level of housing and food. People can earn “strokes” for prosocial actions, such as volunteer work, which raise their social capital and allow luxury purchases, or “strikes” for antisocial behavior or language. Rubi Whiting is a poster child for the bounceback generation. A famous VR gamer, she studies to become a lawyer for the mentally ill while advocating for SeaJuve, a plan to revive the oceans and increase oxygen on Earth. Her newest legal client, Luciano Pox, while notoriously antisocial, remains an enigma. Could he be the long-feared Singularity, an AI who has achieved full autonomy? Rubi seeks balance between her passion for SeaJuve, her advocacy for Luce, her responsibilities to her father, the MadMaestro, and her fascination with her gaming archnemesis, Gimlet.
VERDICT Beckett’s debut is richly imagined, fast-paced climate change fiction. The predictions for our future feel shockingly real but still make one wish the virtual reality technology and the prosocial ideologies were available now. Readers will delight in the nonbinary characters, LBGTQ relationships and identities, and the land acknowledgment statement at the end of the book. Highly recommended.
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