Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Prime Meridian, JABberwocky Literary Agency, 2018 (reprint).
About six months ago I was told of this novella, too late to be a part of the fundraiser and get a copy when Moreno-Garcia released it as an indie novella. Ever since, I've been waiting for its reprint and wider availablity.
So, yes, I know that barely a few weeks ago I reviewed a novel by Moreno-Garcia, but this scifi novella was everything I hoped for, and some more.
Amelia lives, or rather survives, in Mexico. She could have hoped for a brilliant future but her mother's illness meant she had to quit university to take care of her, and then her death left her and her sister and nieces in a precarious situation.
She makes ends meet by working for Friendrr, a rent-a-friend business, but she dreams on leaving it all behind to go to the Mars colony.
What struck me when I read The Beautiful Ones was how amazingly well crafted the characters were. And Prime Meridian confirms my impression that it is a very strong point of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's writing. The main character, Amelia, is drawn amazingly well, and not only that, but the world she inhabits too. You can feel all of her aspirations, her rancour, her hopes and the weight of harsh reality. From scene to scene, you follow her, from an overcrowded apartment to a lavish restaurant with someone she knew in the past, from crossing the courtyard where idle teenagers reign, to the house of a former starlet. Every place adds up to emphasise the yawning gap between her aspirations, to leave to Mars, and her reality, that of a broke woman with little prospect in the mid-21st century.
All the secondary characters are precisely that: secondary, but their stories are intricately woven with Amelia's, supporting, hindering, being just a pain. Amelia is the star of the novella, but all the others characters play their part, not only in defining her, but also in empowering her, or not.
A lot of SFF writers try very hard to offer a social discourse. Moreno-Garcia's story seems effortless. From the Uber-like economy to the wealth divide, from the idleness of the disenfranchised younger generation to the rich boys playing at being poor, she paints a vivid and realistic picture of a near future which is already now for a lot of people.
And that's another interesting aspect of Prime Meridian: don't expect adventures on Mars - or rather, don't expect those literally. Prime Meridian is scifi but it is the yearning for another planet you should expect. Oh, and also pulp!
In painting the disenfranchised, Moreno-Garcia paints one of the most realistic portrayal I've read recently of those who will be left behind. There's not even a romanticisation of Mars itself, but it's an escape from the here, the now, and an Earth that hasn't got anything more to offer except old dreams gone stale.
Nonetheless, Prime Meridian is everything but bleak. On the contrary, I think that after finishing it, you'll probably do just like I'm doing: go at once on the internet to share your love for it.
There aren't many stories when I'm telling people: "Don't think about it twice and buy it." But Prime Meridian is one of these.
Don't think about it twice and buy it. Really.
The writer's website.
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I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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