Saturday, March 30, 2024

A Better World

A Better World by Sarah Langan
4/9/24; 368 pages
Atria Books

A Better World by Sarah Langan is set in a dystopian future where safety from crime, weather events, and even future bombs can be found if you are allowed to live in a company town. This genre-bending novel is highly recommended.

The Farmer-Bowens are in a financial crisis. Linda Farmer is a pediatrician and Russell Bowens is a numbers genius who was laid off from the EPA. When Russell is offered a trial position with the eco-engineering firm BetterWorld a company that makes Omnium, a material made from recycled ocean plastics. the family gets to move to the company town of Plymouth Valley (PV) in South Dakota. They will be safe there in the walled-off city. The air is clean, food is available, the schools are good for their teenage twins. The family can live in PV for one year and then at an annual review their future there will be voted on.

Once there, the family realizes that they have no idea how to fit in with these people. The residents are very polite but remote to the whole family. Also questionable is the group of customs and beliefs called Hollow that the residents follow religiously. And then there are the strange birds called Caladrius that are everywhere.

The narrative unfolds through Linda's point-of-view. Also, scattered throughout the novel are excerpts from a handbook and a future research paper. Linda is a fully realized character, but the focus is truly on the odd behavior in the town, the weird festivals, and the family trying to fit in to a closed society that doesn't allow newcomers in so easily - unless you get connected with the right people.

A Better World is a well-written dystopian, mixed with a cult-based thriller, a mystery, and a horror novel. The atmosphere is creepy as are most of the residents. I'm not a huge fan of explicit horror, but do appreciate the creation of an eerie perception. If there were just a few safe places left in the world and in order to fit in and stay you had to participate in their weird cult-ish actions, would you do it? Participation and acceptance means food, shelter, and safety from the outside world. 

Tied into the plot are some pertinent topics people are questioning today, especially the safety of plastic on the health of individuals and GMOs. Thanks to Atria Books for providing me with an advance reader's copy via Edelweiss. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

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