Book review: Becket author's latest is fast-paced eco-thriller
Set in the year 2165, our current issues of climate change and bitter debates about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pale in comparison to the environmental devastation and authoritarianism portrayed in this novel's frighteningly believable future. This second/revised edition is very timely with the current renewed interest and deeper reflection on such dystopian fiction that has alerted us to the horrors of climate change and cruel dictatorships.
"The Commons" is absorbing and very enjoyable reading for those who love espionage novels, thrillers, mysteries and science fiction. Well-defined science, and a strong story line deeply involve the reader in an epic revolution. Following horrific famine wars and completely devastating climate change where whole countries are submerged by the sea, North America enters an Era of Restored Order. Government, ruled by what is simply called, The Corporation, maintains vast fields of highly genetically modified and pesticide protected strains of wheat developed by Agrotechs. These farms are managed by individual families, spread far and wide to discourage collusion. Any individual tampering with the crops is punishable by death. The Corporation owns 85 percent of profits and the managers, called Grain Guardians, get 15 percent.
Head of the Agrotech Division, Dr. Horatio Jedda, controls food production. Food is mostly synthetic with wheat products being the last of anything resembling natural food. He is interested in nurturing natural life, but he is steadfastly devoted to The Corporation. A stem rust named EMMY has appeared to destroy the world's crops of wheat and the race is on to either develop a poison anti-fungicide, Emmy-B-Gone, or develop a wheat strain that can resist the disease.
Inspired by a talented and rebellious pop-musician, Lizzie Corelli, a flamboyant naturalist Nicolai Juma Das is intent on rediscovering the ancient and impervious wheat strain called Lucky Boy, last seen in the year 1998. Mysterious scientists, Professors Mugombo, Stevie Foster and the brilliant Professor Bjornsdottir of the Arctic Global Seed Vault, are caught in the middle of GMO versus nature in the quest to save the world from starvation. Robot spies, generally in the form of pets, holographic broadcasts emanating from any space, and walk-in microscope projections, all add to the other-worldliness.
This is a novel about the irrepressible qualities of "true nature." Humanity is the basic ingredient even as most of the characters are actually decades older than 100 years due to technology so advanced, any part of the body can be replaced and genetic sciences have developed as far as the imagination can go. "The Commons," meaning free-thinking people, is about a revolution, a resurgence, of nature and humanity.
Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The Commons" By Susan Dworkin
Publisher: A Divided Lights Project
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