Thursday, March 5, 2020
SciFi Novella Review: Sea Change by Nancy Kress
Full Disclosure: This novella was read as an e-ARC (Advance Reader Copy) obtained via Netgalley from the publisher in advance of the book's release on April 24, 2020 in exchange for a potential review. I give my word that this did not affect my review in any way - if I felt conflicted in any way, I would simply have declined to review the book.
Sea Change by Nancy Kress
Sea Change is the latest novella from author Nancy Kress, whose work I've heard about but never previously read. It's another in an unsurprisingly growing genre - works that showcase dark sorta-dystopian futures based upon potential developments based upon our current trajectory. In this case, it deals with a potential backlash to GMO-based food due to an unfortunate disaster and the results such a backlash would have.
Still, Sea Change is a bit more than that, as it also tries to showcase a protagonist who is bent on helping others through various causes, and one who is also trying to recover from tragedy of her own. It's lead character is very believable, as are its side characters, and you can easily see such a person in the modern world today. The novella has some issues, but it's well worth your time.
Plot Summary: 2032: "Caroline Denton" (real name Renata Black) works in Seattle for an organization working to develop genetically modified (GMO) crops to reduce world hunger, years after the Catastrophe resulted in the outlawing of work on GMOs in the United States. Haunted by her tragic past, she works double time both in her illicit role as part of the Org and in her public job as a paralegal helping those involved in Sexual Assault cases on the Quinault Nation reservation. But when she finds a deserted mobile house with the signal of the Org abandoned in the street, she knows something has gone wrong and soon she finds herself desperately searching for answers, before the cause doesn't come crashing down on her and the world....
Thoughts: Sea Change works really well because its protagonist is extremely believable as she was back in our time and in this dark future. Renata/Caroline's transformation from generic bleeding heart, but a genuine one, to one who is driven by tragedy to the cause of fighting for GMOs is realy well done, as the book alternates between telling her past and her present (our future). Even her love of her husband is done really well, a depressing story of love for someone who doesn't quite care for the same things at all. It's story about the dark future itself is executed well enough - and the book does an excellent job showing the need for GMOs to reduce world hunger - but isn't in and of itself done in a surprising way (particularly the thriller/conspiracy elements, which introduces unnecessary red herrings for no reason). But the character work brings this all together and makes the cause all the more poignant, for an effective novella overall.