Sunday, June 9, 2019

Above the Ether

Above the Ether by Eric Barnes
Arcade Publishing: 6/11/19
eBook review copy; 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9781628729986

Above the Ether by Eric Barnes is a highly recommended prequel to his climate change science fiction novel The City Where We Once Lived.

The stories of six sets of vastly different characters are told in short vignettes set in the climate changed world Barnes first created in The City Where We Once Lived. The weather patterns are unpredictable and violent, while the ground is poisoned, and the government is unable to provide any assistance. This novel covers the changes before, that led to the world he created. None of his characters are given names, rather they are named by a description. We follow the stories of: a father and his two children fleeing a tsunami in the Gulf; an investor making money betting on disasters; a couple punishing themselves over their sons addictions, while wildfires rage around them; a doctor and his wife living in a refugee camp for immigrants; a young man with a violent past and present is working at a carnival; and the manager of a fast food chain in a city of fierce winds. The different characters and their stories converge on the city which is half abandoned and the setting for The City Where We Once Lived.

The writing and the stories are presented in a dream-like, fragmented manner in a harsh apocalyptic setting. This is one of those novels that you will either commit to finishing or you will set it aside. While the characters are going through turmoil and unbelievable hardships, Barnes seems to purposefully keep his characters set apart, at a distance from the readers, as if they are just another small group of diverse people suffering. The writing simply tells their story while holding the reader at a distance - until the end. It is left up to the reader to decide if they will care or not - or if they feel this reality he has created will mirror our own world. It is definitely bleak and almost hopeless, as there is a glimmer of people coming together and helping each other at the end.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Arcade Publishing.

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