Review copy provided by the publisher.
It’s so satisfying when there’s a tendency in a subgenre that annoys you and then someone comes along and writes a novella that does the exact opposite. I get very frustrated with solarpunk that uses magic to move its characters into a more sustainable society–it depresses me, because it makes me feel like the author doesn’t see any way to a better world other than magic.
Ulibarri is doing the opposite here. There’s a speculative conceit that’s basically magic–very minimal handwavium applied to make it “sciency” but we all know it’s basically magic, it’s fine–and that is not the part where they build themselves a better community. The part where they build themselves a better community is hard work and human relationships. YES GOOD THANK YOU. And in fact quite a lot of this book is about how to do it but also how it can go wrong in significant but non-catastrophic ways and need a course correction.
It’s also about people having scientific access to their own past lives, and the various reactions this would cause as new tech. There’s quite a believable range of reactions from “I don’t care about that, it’s irrelevant” to “that is vitally important and I will treat you as equivalent to your past self” with a lot of spread in between.
I think one of the things that I like best, though, is that the protagonist, Galacia, is hard-working, well-intentioned, very determined…and no more perfect at self-knowledge than any of the rest of us. Even without her previous life woven in. She’s doing her best, her best will not make everything perfect, but that doesn’t mean she can’t make some things better. What a lovely balance for a solarpunk work.