cover image A Half-Built Garden

A Half-Built Garden

Ruthanna Emrys. Tordotcom, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-21098-2

Emrys (the Innsmouth Legacy series) describes this ambitious near-future mix of climate fiction, first-contact sci-fi, and celebration of Jewish motherhood as her “diaperpunk novel.” In a climate change–ravaged 2083, climate activist Judy Wallach-Stevens and her wife, Carol, live and coparent their infant, Dori, with couple Atheo and Dinar, who have a toddler of their own, Raven. This unconventional family are the first humans to encounter a group of galaxy-hopping aliens led by the insect-like First Mother Cytosine and her infants. The aliens want humanity to join them in symbiotic space, leaving behind an Earth they see as doomed—and they’re willing to use force. But Judy and her family have put their all into saving the planet, agitating against greedy capitalistic corporations and with little help from much diminished national governments, and they’re unwilling to give up on its future. Judy’s hesitant attempts at diplomacy succeed as she and the aliens find common ground in shared experiences of child rearing and nursing. Along the way, Judy learns “a different, equally valuable sort of love” with an arachnoid alien. Emrys’s optimistic vision of interspecies collaboration may strain belief for some readers. It’s idealism carried to a light-years-away extreme, buoyed by children binding people together. The result is thought-provoking, if not wholly successful. (July)