This was a very interesting sounding story, and so when the publisher reached out to ask if I was interested in a review copy, I happily accepted.
So thanks to the author, as well as Angry Robot for the review copy!
Life goes on for the billions left behind after the humanity-saving colony mission to Proxima Centauri leaves Earth orbit … but what’s the point?
Julie Riley is two years too young to get out from under her mother’s thumb, and what does it matter? She’s over-educated, under-employed, and kept mostly numb by her pharma emplant. Her best friend, who she’s mostly been interacting with via virtual reality for the past decade, is part of the colony mission to Proxima Centauri. Plus, the world is coming to an end. So, there’s that.
When Julie’s mother decides it’s time to let go of the family home in a failing suburb and move to the city to be closer to work and her new beau, Julie decides to take matters into her own hands. She runs, illegally, hoping to find and hide with the Volksgeist, a loose-knit culture of tramps, hoboes, senior citizens, artists, and never-do-wells who have elected to ride out the end of the world in their campers and converted vans, constantly on the move over the back roads of America.
This is the story of Julie Riley who lives in a fairly far-flung future United States where the world is more or less doomed, and humanity has both had people living on the moon, and sent out colony ships to Proxima Centauri.
Julie runs away from her cushy but restrictive life and joins a culture of tramps and hoboes in their caravans of campers, befriending a woman named Ranger who acts as a sort of caravan guard for the various groups that they come across.
I liked Julie and cheered for her pretty easily. Ranger was also a cool character that I liked. The mentor/mentee relationship that evolved between the two of them was well written and kept me engaged with the story. I could see myself in Julie in a lot of ways.
There were a lot of little details that helped make this story seem more realistic. For example, when she runs away, Julie has an implant removed that had been steadily supplying her with antidepressants, and after a few days she starts having withdrawal symptoms. It was one of the most realistic descriptions of SSRI withdrawal (a symptom called ‘brain zaps’) that I’ve seen, and again, it helped me relate with Julie, because oh boy Julie do I know those feels. Seeing the consequences of her running away was very cool though.
A lot of this book is paced rather slowly (by nature, I think), and occasionally it would have little time skips in it. So, Ranger and Julie would find a place to camp and be told that the next day there was going to be a big party, and I would get a little excited for the shenanigans that would inevitably go down at a big party of tramps and hoboes, only for the party to never be described. They’d go to bed and it would be two days later when the story continued. I found these annoying at times, because as I said, I’d be looking forward to hearing about whatever it was that was going to happen.
All told, it was a rather optimistic look at a dystopian United States. We see a group of people, or perhaps a class of people that are all in different groups, surviving what is essentially ‘the end of the world’ in their own way, and Ranger and Julie meet many, many different and unique characters on their journey. It was a slow ride, but I quite enjoyed it. 3.5/5 stars~