On a scorched Earth, access to energy can mean the difference between life and death.
Firewalkers are brave. Firewalkers are resourceful. Firewalkers are expendable.
The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And as for power?
Well, someone has to repair the solar panels, down in the deserts below.
Kids like Mao, and Lupé, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope.
Firewalkers is the latest shorter novel by Tchaikovsky. A mystery set in an environmentally ravaged future, it follows a group of firewalkers as they are sent out to investigate some strange energy surges and interruptions. A bleak picture of the future, one in which the very few have left the many behind. I enjoyed this.
I don’t want to delve too deeply into the plot, as it’s not the longest of novels. (For Adrian, this can be classified as a novella…) We’re dropped right into the setting, and we quickly become oriented to this future. Temperatures have skyrocketed and world’s population is in a constant struggle for work, energy (mainly for air conditioning), food, and water. The wealthiest people alive are slowly disappearing up onto an orbital habitat, leaving the rest to scratch together an existence.
“Oil money, industry money, bottled water magnates, fossil fuel tycoons, and all the politicos who made sure they kept on fucking the world over. And then they get to live above it all and go someplace cool for the summer, like space. Because they’d rather throw their money at taking them and theirs to another planet than try to fix this one. And everyone left here? Well you can all fucking fry! Or you can take their dollars to fix their fucking AC before they grab it all and leave for good.”
That above quotation resonates so much with what we’re seeing today. Consider the number of billionaires who are spending vast sums on space travel, rather than fixing issues we have right here. There’s a quiet, fierce criticism of many contemporary policies in the book. Readers aren’t beaten around the head with them, but it’s also impossible to miss them (assuming you have eyes and ears and are vaguely aware of what’s happening in the world today).
An interesting novel that paints a grim picture of a possible future if global warming accelerates, and temperatures continue to rise dramatically. A diverse cast of interesting and distinct characters, a dollop of mystery and technological shenanigans. There’s some good action, tricksy AI, and a satisfying ending.
Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Firewalkers is due to be published by Solaris Books on May 12th, in the UK and North America.
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Review copy received from publisher