By Jeff Murray
Okay, where to start. I have hugely mixed feelings about this book.
The book opens in Independence, a low-lying island in the Pacific, during a terrible storm. This storm pretty much finished Independence and they’re sure this means that they will finally be able to move to New Zealand as promised. But as the boats with New Zealand’s aid and a government representative arrive after the storm is over, they are told that they can stay on the island for another ten years. Vai, the protagonist and advocate for the island knows that her island doesn’t have ten years, it’s done now. And if they have to wait that long, they will miss their chance as the rich countries move into the remaining pockets of liveable climates while those from poorer countries are left behind. So begins her trip to New Zealand, and beyond, to try and secure a place for all the people of Independence to move into the future and thrive.
It was not a comfortable read. Too much of it I can see happening – the changes in New Zealand, the politics, the countries that form as the “big three” to set the rules in the new world where almost every country is a migrant of some kind. As expected, the big three are all countries from the northern hemisphere that claim Antarctica and the south, saying that there is plenty of land opening up (from being under ice) in the north for the northern countries, and Antarctica should be for the south – obviously they mean what parts of the southern hemisphere they allow have a claim to what is left when they are done.
Descriptions of the changes in New Zealand are realistic and while I was struggling to read the book due to this degree of reality (why this was limited to a commute book for me), I wanted to know where it went. It started so strong. But as Vai’s story started to unfold, she became very unlikeable, and then we start to get little bubbles of oddness in the story. Which leads me to the final 40-50 pages. It is a spiral of strange, culminating in an incredibly weird ending. There are so many ways that this book could have gone, and I can’t fathom why the author chose to take it where he did. Honestly, the ending lets this book down majorly. Before the last quarter of the book, this was going to be 4 stars. The ending makes me want to put it to 2 stars (it was a 1 star ending). And the only reason I gave it three stars was because of how realistic so much of it was and how uncomfortable it made me reading it, thinking that I could absolutely see it all happening (before it got weird, of course). And it is a good book that can do that.
Would I recommend it? I really don’t know. Was it worth reading? Yes, even if I wished I had finished it at the three quarter mark. Will I read it again? No way.