Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book 34: On The Edge Of Gone

"This is the second time my future vanishes: it's January 29, 2035, and I give up."

Dates read: March 22-25, 2016

Rating: 7/10

My husband and I sometimes will stream some nonsense TV show in the 30-45 minutes before we go to bed. We don't really watch it per se, it's just kind of on in the background. Alaska State Troopers is a show we do that a lot with, and so is Doomsday Preppers. The latter is more interesting than you might think...the kinds of people who are preppers aren't always the kinds of people you would imagine would be into that sort of thing. Sure, there are plenty of rural, religious types, but there's also families who live in McMansions in the suburbs, young single urbanites...a surprisingly diverse cross-section of our population.

But what if they were right? What if the end of the world was nigh? Corinne Duyvis' On the Edge of Gone takes place in the Netherlands about 20 years in the future, and at the beginning of the novel, we join teenager Denise and her mom as they (and the rest of the world) are getting ready for a comet to strike the planet. The very wealthy have left Earth via spaceship, and so have some of the very lucky, who won lotteries for spots on those ships. The remaining population have been assigned to shelters to ride out the strike and immediate aftermath. Denise, her sister Iris, and her mother are in the latter group, but when the appointed day comes and Iris is nowhere to be found, Denise and her mother find themselves running late to get to their shelter in time. On their way, they come across one of Denise's former teachers and her partner who have had an accident, and are permitted to take shelter aboard the spaceship they've been assigned to in return for helping them get there.

Once she's on the ship, Denise immediately starts trying to figure out how to stay...wouldn't anyone want to explore the stars instead of try to survive in the kind of post-apocalyptic situation that killed the dinosaurs? The rest of the plot unfolds from there: Denise's quest to find her sister and secure herself and her family room on the ship. When I was reading it, I kept expecting the ship taking off to be when the plot would really start, and it took me until about a quarter of the way through to figure out that wasn't the point. The point are the questions the scenario raises; most poignantly, how do you figure out who should live and who should die? What kinds of skills are really necessary anyways? We can all agree on doctors, cooks, and engineers, but who's more important: artists or lawyers? Young people or experienced people?

There's a movement out there centered around the idea that we need diverse books. I agree. I'm never going to be one to go on a deliberate spree to only read books by or about a particular gender or racial category (my favorite author is White Man Jeffrey Eugenides), but I think a lot of people's...fear or resistance or whatever it is, exactly, that makes them suspicious of others who aren't like them is based on a lack of exposure. It's easy to demonize gay people, or trans people, or people of color, to think of the world as Us v. Them, when you don't know any of Them. Once you get to know Them, it turns out they're people, just like you, with the same kind of hopes and dreams and bills and taxes that you have. Even literature can be an important bridge to build empathy...a book implicitly asks you to care about these people on the page, to imagine yourself in their shoes. Which is why it matters that Denise and Iris are mixed race, that Denise is autistic (as is the author), that Iris is transgender. Those aren't the kind of people you normally read books about. And this book in particular is well-crafted, with a story that draws you in and makes you ask yourself how you would deal with the situations that are presented therein. Definitely worth and read and a think.

Tell me, blog friends...what kind of not-typical protagonists would you like to see books about?

**I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review**

Note: Review cross-posted at Cannonball Read

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