Source: DRC via NetGalley (Macmillan-Tor/Forge)
Pub. Date: Jan 25, 2022
Synopsis: Goodreads

Why did I choose to read this book?

This was a late entry into the NetGalley pool. It popped up on a later “most anticipated” list, and since I enjoyed Onyebuchi’s Beasts Made of Night, I was willing to give some of her new writing some space on my TBR shelf. If I didn’t have this previous experience with the author, I probably wouldn’t have requested this one at all.

What is notable about the story?

  1. Did you ever wish that Fallout was a book? Here you go!
  2. Are you unfamiliar with the concept of gentrification? Here you go! (No seriously, you’ll get hit with this theme every other page. You won’t be able to walk away from this book without understanding the negative effects of gentrification.)

Was anything not so great?

The first thing I should say here is that this book probably wasn’t for me, but would be captivating to someone else. I didn’t think that this story was “bad,” but I did have some quibbles with the writing.

First, the language and the story didn’t seem to flow very easily. All the characters sounded like the same character but with different names; they were difficult to differentiate. It’s not clear what the story is even about, other than people getting thrown out of their homes which are then fixed up and sold to much richer people, who had originally moved off-world but are now looking to come back to Earth. And feeding off the Fallout feel: everything tasted so bland, looked so beige, there was nothing to get invested in or excited about. (If you’ve never heard of the video game Fallout, here is a video of some gameplay that might help you understand what I’m talking about. The sound doesn’t have to be on for you to get the idea.)

Second, I got the sense that this was the kind of book a person writes when they are gunning for an award. Extremely high level vocabulary with hot-topic commentary, I felt like I could write the award presenter’s script. “A fresh perspective on the horrors of gentrification, Onyebuchi brings her elegant prose to a bleak near future and serves as an oracle and a cautionary tale.” Or something like that. The action or story was held up by language that didn’t match the situation, it pulled me out of the story on almost every page.

Lastly, after slogging through only the first 9 percent of the ebook, I arrived at a section that started with “Wanna butt-fuck?” and I looked up form the Kindle, slowly closed it, and continued riding on my exercise bike. I usually give a book until 30% before I give up, but this time I had to let it go much earlier. This was not an enjoyable read, it was not thought provoking. It was trying too hard to be edgy and different and topical and honestly all of this together was a recipe for a “did not finish.”

What’s the verdict?

I’m going with one star on this one. If you aren’t hooking me with at least one character or one idea within the first 10% to make continuing to read seem worth it, it’s just not great. If you want to write about gentrification, you don’t need sci-fi, just write historical fiction or non-fiction. Definitely check out her other work, but this one is definitely a pass for me.


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