Premee Mohamed’s writing is beautiful, as I found when reading The Apple-Tree Throne, and I think this novella punches above its weight in terms of the page count. She builds up a whole post-apocalyptic world — a world ruined by climate change, epidemics, and one particular pandemic, a nerve-invading, mind-controlling fungus which can affect its host in a bunch of different ways (from screaming in pain as it invades every organ, to preventing them from taking risks by causing all their muscles to lock, and all sorts of things in between).
It’s very much a book of the last year or two, one that takes a lot of our current worries and preoccupations and reactions and makes a world that reflects them back and elaborates them. The anger at the people who lived so decadently, so freely; the fear of a disease that is not fully understood, cannot be fought; but also the way that some people do manage to live together, work together, make the New Normal work.
It’s both a sad and a hopeful story, and Reid is a pretty ordinary messed up human who loves her mother and says awful things to her, loves her best friend and also gets really mad about his flaws and then immediately turns to him when she’s in trouble. She’s also in the grips of a disease that limits her, which she rages against, and sometimes (sometimes) manages to overcome.
I loved the relationships between Henryk and Reid, and between Reid and her mother, and the delicate web of relationships you see around them — everyone relying on everyone else, because the world’s against them now. And I really liked the ending, which felt hard-won.