Sea Change, a forthcoming novella by acclaimed writer Nancy Kress, is everything I love about speculative fiction. The story has a compelling near-future setting, is full of smart characters with sharply written dialogue, and is so thematically rich and progressive. It’s character driven, scarily close to reality, and covers topics often overlooked by other media.
Not unlike my previous review of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s upcoming novella, Firewalkers, Kress’s Sea Change also centers on our world following devastation caused, primarily, by climate change. However, whereas Firewalkers is set in a time that feels very distant and in a place that feels far from our present world, Sea Change is set in the 2030s in America and feels very true to a near-future picture of the country.
Following a disastrous incident in the United States that causes many children to die, the government takes drastic measures to “protect” the people from GMOs. GMOs are completely outlawed at a time when GMO plants might be the one thing to save the world’s population from malnutrition, which has only worsened due to climate change.
Amidst these changes, an underground (and very illegal) movement crops up, full of scientists and activists devoted to saving the world through scientific innovations with vegetation, nutrition, and, yes, with GMOs. Our main character, Caroline, is a part of this secret organization, the Org. The story opens with Renata uncovering a mystery with unknown but certain ties to the Org, and follows her as she works to discover the truth.
Kress not only covers themes relating to climate change and politics, but also covers a lot of ground by having Renata tangentially involved with the native community on a nearby reservation. Not only is there meaningful representation of native characters, but the plot carefully covers issues relating to sexual assault on native girls and women, and also with the difficulty in prosecuting known offenders. Somehow Kress manages to tie her themes and story-threads together in a way that is both successful and purposeful, which makes her important representation feel like much more than just a casual reference.
I highly recommend this novella, and can’t wait to read more Nancy Kress. 5/5 stars and all the praise I can muster.
Thanks to the publisher, Edelweiss, and Netgalley for providing me an eArc of this novella in exchange for a fair review. Sea Change comes out on April 24, 2020.