cover image This Great Hemisphere

This Great Hemisphere

Mateo Askaripour. Dutton, $29 (432p) ISBN 978-0-593-47234-7

In this ambitious sophomore novel, Askaripour (Black Buck) casts a young woman as a sorcerer’s apprentice in a dastardly scheme to “reset” the world. In 2529, Sweetmint is the first Invisible to work for the Northwestern Hemisphere’s Chief Architect, Tenmase, an elderly eccentric who has been instrumental in upholding apartheid policies that separate the Invisibles from the visible Dominant Peoples. Fast-thinking and a decent tennis player, Sweetmint impresses Tenmase, who shares with her his half-baked plan to remake Northwestern society. After someone murders Northwestern’s religious head honcho, suspicion falls on Sweetmint’s brother, Shanu, who disappeared several years earlier, and Sweetmint sets out on a dangerous quest to find and protect him. She must first locate the parents who abandoned her and Shanu as babies and then navigate a labyrinth of arcane alliances, including the Rainbow Girls (her former classmates who paint themselves visible so they can work as prostitutes) and underground rebels who call themselves Children of Slim. Meanwhile, two Local Managers vie to become Northwestern’s next Chief Executive, Tesmane’s real identity is revealed, and violence simmers between the Invisibles and the Dominant Peoples. Askaripour crafts a plot so intricate and twisty it occasionally leaves the reader on the sidelines. At it’s best, however, this energetic, speculative deconstruction of colonialism feels like watching an expert put together a 1000-piece jigsaw. (July)