“Smoketown,” or, “post-eco-apocalypse, but weirdly uplifting”
Tenea D. Johnson
I’m normally not a fan of post-apocalyptic stuff, because, y’know, if I want to be depressed about the world I’ll just turn on the news. This, though, wasn’t as depressing as things usually are — things have fallen apart as compared to what we’re used to, but people aren’t letting it stop them. Life goes on, even if that means city-states throughout the remnants of the US cooperating on carbon sequestration projects to try to keep Idaho from sinking.1
This was also one of those books that does an excellent job of setting up a fascinating setting without dropping into mountains of exposition. There’s never an explicit reference to what’s happened, but you can pick things out from background details pretty well; it’s tantalizing, to see little hints of things but not get a full explanation.
The story, too, is interesting, because it doesn’t treat the overall ‘apocalypse’ as the Big Problem. It’s hinted at that the various governments of the world are continuing to adapt to and prevent further problems, but the story focuses on two levels: a personal dilemma, and one enveloping just the city where the story takes place.
The personal is weird and convoluted and makes sense, eventually; the city-level is more neatly tied together. It’s quite satisfying, all told; as I was getting towards the end of the book, keeping an eye on how much of it was left, I wasn’t expecting everything to tie up as well as it did.
And I think I’ll stop there; I don’t like giving away spoilers, and this book did a better job of keeping me from guessing the ending than I usually do. Give it a read.
- I believe that’s an incorrect reference, technically — Idaho was mentioned as having become entirely desert, I think, and somewhere else (Louisiana, presumably) had effectively sunk into the ocean. ↩