Content warning Major plot and worldbuilding spoilers
We read this for #SFFBookClub, and it started some very interesting discussions. I think I liked it, but don't even know how to give it a star rating.
I keep seeing it described as "hopepunk" or "optimistic", and that was not my reaction at all. The setting is a world in which some people have managed to reorient their lives into a watershed-based somewhat anarchist model of living within planetary resources. But... but... but...
First but: there's no sense that the damage has been restored. A pivotal moment in the story is a hurricane hitting the US East Coast at Passover - in other words climate destruction far worse than we've endured so far in the real world.
Second but: it's strongly implied that much of the world's population hasn't joined the revolution. Nation states are still important (the narrator denies this, but there seems to be a lot of implication that she's flattering her faction), corporations have been exiled to artificial islands in the high seas but remain the sole suppliers of a lot of technology.
Third and biggest but: a lot of what drives the tension of the story is the narrator's inability to see things from anyone else's perspective, to the point that the people in the other factions only really seem human when we catch glimpses from outside the narrator's eye.
Having said all that: all of these things felt very plausible to me! In the face of it, aliens show up. And the aliens are in some ways a very hopeful story: two radically different civilisations that have built some sort of hybrid culture, and now become ardent students of human culture, on a mission to save us from the destruction of our ecosystem. Fourth but: as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that it really wasn't an equal marriage between those two, and their attitude to humanity is extremely paternalistic.
Much of the drama is about the human factions jockeying for position as the aliens basically decide what they're going to do with us. I appreciated how much of the power struggle plays out by means of disrupting communication, but it drove me nuts how much humans and aliens alike treated this as a contest to come to a single decision for all of humanity. I felt the obvious solution of "those who want to go with the aliens, go, those who want to stay, stay" was staring me in the face for chapter after chapter and never even seemed to be acknowledged as a possibility.
In the end I think I did like this book, but it left me feeling really down. Not an optimistic tale at all, but a deeply, deeply pessimistic one about our collective failures to see each other, and how much harder that failure makes it to deal with the mess we've got ourselves into.