It’s sometimes hard for me to approach books like this, with a ton of advance praise and appearances on year-end lists, plus a Netflix-produced adaptation in the works from some really big names. So I’ll say here that I found the book absolutely enthralling, mostly due to it not being the type of book I expected. I went in expecting something plot-forward, but what I found instead is focused on smaller moments where Alam’s writing can really unwind—there’s these wonderfully specific passages that focus on the characters’ physicality, or their sensorial experience of the world around them.
The broader threat that serves as a plot device is never fully specified; instead we encounter its effects through bizzare episodes where nature is distorted, enigmatic, and foreboding. It’s less concerned with the mechanics of a dystopian collapse than with the stories we tell ourselves as we inhabit the world and interact with each other—lies, perhaps, about the type of person we would like to be, a better version that would act with more humanity than we are capable of.