Like its stunning cover photos, this novel intended for young adults, blends fantasy and reality. The reader is immediately introduced to a world where lawns are made of stone and rising sea levels engulf neighborhoods. People remember how beautiful the earth once was but most citizens believe they are powerless to restore its beauty.
The mission of saving the planet from “the culture of neglect that threatened to annihilate life on Earth” falls upon two teenagers, Boy and his dream girl Valentine. Their search for ways to stop pollution on Earth and other fertile planets takes the young heroes on a journey through the galaxies. Helped by a female android named Any, the three embark on a wild and imaginative adventure involving computers, clones, droids, and interplanetary warfare. Other characters in the novel include Boy’s parents, Eleanor and Porter, his sister Kenza, and a greedy ruler called Emperor of Earth and Ocean.
Boy and Valentine, two very bright teens, must cope with a dystopian society where independent thinking is ridiculed. In spite of this adversity, Boy invents a “living computer” and envisions a World Library where knowledge is accessible to all. As I have recently participated in a massive open online course (MOOC) of more than 15,000 learners, Boy’s concept does not seem in the least bit far-fetched.
The computer had become aware of itself as a thing to be factored into its own calculations. He had never seen such orderly collective behavior. The very code he had written was packing together into a tight lattice of identically-shaped symbols. The crystal-like arrangement self-assembled into a polyhedron structure. It then joined a larger cubic lattice. A shock ran through his body. Machines had come to life.
Most of the action of the novel takes place on several planets inhabited by humans and androids – Earth, the ice planet Grod, and a fertile planet similar to earth eons ago called Phira.
I read the galley proof of the eBook edition released January 8, 2015 and noticed for much of the book I was scrolling very quickly, especially during the descriptions of intergalactic battles. Quick scrolling most of the about 300 pages seems the equivalent of “a page turner.”
“Hold on tight!” … A torpedo grazed the saucer’s force field and sailed past the window. The crew was rattled, but suffered no injuries, thanks to their seatbelts. The torpedo barreled off into space. She deftly steered the flying saucer in the opposite direction. The flying saucer dodged another torpedo. She brought the saucer up under the second battleship. “As long as we stay close to the battleship’s fuel tank, it can’t fire at us. We just need a few more minutes so I can lock onto our coordinates.”
Touches of humor include a spaceship computer so sensitive it whispers when passengers are sleeping and plays dance music when a safe landing for the spacecraft is imminent; a planet where marital infidelities occur named Ulia; and teleporting boxes of chocolates. There are also six-legged doglike creatures with telepathic gifts called hupchas who are every bit as loyal and affectionate as earthbound canines.
In addition to the romantic feelings between Boy and Valentine, a spirit of friendship grows among the other like-minded characters in the novel – the friendship between siblings Boy and Kenza, between Valentine and Kenza, between Eleanor and a female alien named Yda and, even the friendship of Porter with the younger version of himself. These friendships deepen as the story unfolds, as does the love between Boy and Valentine. So does the great affection of the doglike hupchas for the families they protect.
Caring and flawed, the enthusiastic adolescents and their disillusioned parents are extremely likable and the fact that they care what happens to one another and what happens to the environment they share makes them sympathetic. I’ve certainly met other likable characters in other science fiction and fantasy books but as these characters seem so much more so, I asked myself why. The one word answer is generosity – the sympathetic humans and androids in this story are generous toward one another. And this spirit of generosity contrasts greatly with the greedy and malicious villains, led by the evil Emperor.
The author’s purpose in writing this book was to inform young readers about the urgent need to protect the environment and she has done so in a totally original and highly imaginative way. Nature’s Confession is JL Morin’s fourth novel and her first in the climate fiction or “cli-fi” genre.
Barbara Alfaro blogs about books, poetry, and film at http://www.BarbaraAlfaro.net.