Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 20th July 2021
Bréone Hemmerli is a diplomat, working for the UN, in a world that rapidly has no need for her as it tears itself apart under the influence of climate change and isolationist policies. She’s also struggling with the encroaching loss of her memories, which bends reality and leaves her sometimes incapable of remembering how to open a door, while sometimes still clear enough to understand international politics.
And there’s an alien in her back garden; it looks like a tree, it’s eaten the fish in her pond, and it needs to communicate with humanity. It needs to communicate, for a start, with Bréone.
The description of the dementia is vivid, and frankly, something that I personally could have done without right now. I can’t blame the book for being vivid, but for personal reasons this aspect of the plot was just… it just wasn’t the right time for me. It did leave me wondering how the narrator could possibly be so clear, given the state of her memories and general cognition; I promise to the sticklers like me that there is a reason for that, and it does get revealed.
I think I enjoyed this less than I would’ve sometimes because of the aforementioned personal reasons, but as a novella (or maybe a long short story?) it works quite well, offering us a glimpse of a moment in time and a critical choice, an opportunity to change things for the better. It’s not super-conclusive — the world isn’t saved all in a second — and instead it feels personal, giving us that moment in Bréone’s skin, in her failing mind. It works beautifully.