An uplifting and beautiful sci-fi novel, “Spindrifts” by A.M. Mawhiney explores how the jarring lessons of catastrophes such as worldwide pandemics and the prospect of utter catastrophe brought on by such human-made calamities as global warming can potentially forge a more optimistic tomorrow.
The novel is set approximately fifty years from now, after the world has barely survived repeated epidemics and ecological apocalypse. Largely, the saviours of earth via an advanced technological project called the “Earth Project”, were a scientist named Alicia, and her husband Nide. A return to a more rural, agricultural-based existence, and renewing the earth, has spawned the Land of Hope. This area, the source of the original project, has become a haven, where successive generations of Alicia and her extended family reside.
Earth is still in danger, however, yet the aging matriarch Alicia believes that her progeny holds the key to ultimate survival. The youngest members of Alicia’s family seem to hold particular promise. Two sisters, Alicia’s great-granddaughters Fania and Nuna, have not yet come into their own. For what path one follows in life, in Mawhiney’s world, is determined by “Immersion”. Immersion is something of a two-year retreat for those who have turned thirteen years of age, where such youngsters leave their families and spend two years secluded away, trying to refine their talents and ascertain what vocation they should pursue.
Fania returns from Immersion still uncertain about what path she should follow. While she loves her sister, she is also envious that it seems Nuna will be spared Immersion, because Numa appears to be a musical prodigy, and is offered a prestigious placement accordingly. Yet one of the reasons why Fania has not found her way is because she seems to have almost unlimited potential, and special powers, with a capacity to affect the world as a whole.
As Fania comes to understand more about earth’s troubled past through her sometimes difficult relationship with her great-grandmother, she may learn enough, and be able to harness her latent talents enough, that she may positively impact earth’s future. But the Earth Project is not without its controversy and secrets. A project dedicated to salvation, it may also hold the key to the destruction of all it’s trying to save.
The characterization in the novel is wonderful. The story is told via straight narrative, from the perspectives of multiple characters – but mainly Alicia, Nuna, and Fania – and through journal entries by Fania. Inherently, the characters one will find in “Spindrifts” are all highly noble, though not without their flaws. Impatience, selfishness, immaturity, and sometimes hubris are evident among them, but they are all focused on overcoming their own desires and wants for the sake of those they love, and for the greater good of humanity itself. They are characters who are all easy to root for, and their deep and abiding love of their family (despite some dysfunction) in particular, makes them highly endearing.
The writing was lovely, with incredibly vivid descriptions of the landscape. I add one such passage here for pure reading enjoyment:
“A wraithlike lightshow of vibrant neon and lime greens waved in swells of colour then shifted into deep purples, reds, flashes of bright yellow, and indigo. The stars shone through them as the aurora danced and sparkled, expanding, disappearing, and reappearing in wide swathes of glorious counterpoint against the inky night sky. Their fluid movements reminded Nuna of Kizhep’s watercolours when pigments blended with water over the surface of the paper, sometimes overlapping and turning complimentary colours.”
The themes in “Spindrifts” are obviously inspired by recent world events. The society depicted in the novel is somewhat Utopian – not perfect, but a world that has moved past pervasive issues such as racism, homophobia, sexism, and thus been able to address in a determined and focused fashion overarching concerns like climate change.
The author makes her characters deeply connected to the earth, respect and revere the environment, and have a high level of care and concern for their fellow humans. She envisions a society where everyone’s contributions, talents, perspectives, and differences matter, and where everyone uniting for social and environmental change to preserve the planet is not just a platitude, but something put into action. It is such an inspiring vision of hope, love, and family, that as a reader and person living on this earth, I could not help but wish for the ability to live in such a time.
I may love to read a lot of dark fantasy and sci-fi fare, but it was wonderful to bask in the light for a moment, and that is the feeling I had while reading this novel.
This is a book where the conflict and antagonist is ourselves as humanity, and the havoc we can wreak on our planet, though we possess the enormous potential for greatness and saving ourselves in the same breath. I loved “Spindrifts”, and it is an important book that deserves to be read, a book that I feel we need right now, more than ever, in the face of what we are grappling with as a human race.
Read “Spindrifts” to be encouraged and motivated to see how great we could become.