cover image The Offset

The Offset

Calder Szewczak. Angry Robot, $14.99 (280p) ISBN 978-0-85766-918-6

Writing duo Natasha C. Calder and Emma Szewczak explore the pitfalls of parenthood in the context of climate crisis in their disturbing near-future dystopian debut. They postulate an Earth devastated by overpopulation and climate change, with only the experimental Project Salix, which will replant Greenland with genetically modified willow trees, standing between humanity and extinction. In the meantime, there’s the Offset, a population-limiting stricture demanding that at 18, a child must choose which of their parents to execute. Miri Boltanski faces this terrible choice in just two days, forced to decide between her mothers, Alix, a retired pediatrician and the parent whom Miri loves most, and Jac, the brilliant scientist heading Project Salix and on whom the world depends. Alternating sections show how Miri wrestles with her decision in a decaying London while Jac travels to Greenland, fearing that Project Salix may have been sabotaged. The authors’ integration of many difficult themes is marred by awkwardly handled flashbacks, stilted phrasing (“create a life that would embody and entomb their love”), and occasional thick gobbets of scientific jargon. There are some intriguing concepts here, but the shoddy execution detracts from the impact of this unsettling future tale. [em](Sept.) [/em]