It’s America, 2049. The oil industry is gone, but the damage is done, and rising temperatures have those not wealthy enough to live in floating cities seeking Canada’s cooler climates
by Michelle Min Sterling (John Murray £16.99, 304pp)
It’s America, 2049. The oil industry is gone, but the damage is done, and rising temperatures have those not wealthy enough to live in floating cities seeking Canada’s cooler climates. Meanwhile, “flicks” (always-on brain feeds) are universally implanted, with the result that actual memory is languishing.
These two meaty strands of plot collide in Min Sterling’s debut, which splits between Rose, a Korean-American blue-collar escort involved in the construction of the groundbreaking (and not what it seems) “Camp X”; the naive trustee financier Grant, whose guilt drove him to the location, and the women of a climate research station whose story is told in the chorus voice.
Rich in backstory and more slow-burning, if not less plot-like, than the thriller-esque tropes suggest, this is a distinctive, compelling piece of cli-fi about the power of solidarity that illustrates how closely linked utopias and their contradictions are.
Even with its nods to Tom’s Midnight Garden, there’s no chance you’d mistake Shy for a novel by anyone other than Porter
by Max Porter (Faber £12.99, 128pp)
Even with its nods to Tom’s Midnight Garden, there’s no chance you’d mistake Shy for a novel by anyone other than Porter – again there’s the polyphonic prose, experimental typography, and deep, aching sympathy for human problems.
And trouble is something Shy has no shortage of – a drum’n’bass-loving teen, he’s been sent to the Last Chance Reform School for ‘very deranged young men’ for crimes including stabbing his stepfather’s little finger. (“The bone just broke off. He’s got chubby fingers,” is Shy’s defense.)
Ironically, the Last Chance school itself is on its last legs – this is 1995 and they will soon be luxury flats, raising the specter of the current dire lack of mental health facilities. But Last Chance’s ghosts are also of the literal kind, and during the single night the action takes place, they make themselves felt with a hallucinatory effect.
Lacey, one of America’s leading young literary stars, will undoubtedly receive more acclaim for this “biography” of a mercurial (if not monstrous) artist, X, written by her widow, CM
BIOGRAPHY OF X
by Catherine Lacey (Grant £18.99, 416pp)
Lacey, one of America’s leading young literary stars, will undoubtedly receive more acclaim for this “biography” of a mercurial (if not monstrous) artist, X, written by her widow, CM.
X’s life is a series of appearances and personas as she crosses a galaxy from David Bowie to Kathy Acker. But her story gets even more dizzying because it’s set against the backdrop of an alternate America, where the South seceded to become a fascist theocracy.
The sheer complexity of Lacey’s world-building is extremely compelling – not just her counterfactual history, but the details of X’s bizarre existence, its bizarre nature anchored by photographs and footnotes.
This is a novel about much more than just art and celebrities, exploring themes of freedom, truth, identity and myth-making on a personal, political and national level.
But perhaps most memorable is that it’s an account of CM’s own increasingly obsessive grief: after renouncing her identity in the face of X’s impossible demands, CM’s life without her seems posthumous in a way that’s ultimately quite devastating. is.