TLDR: This futuristic setting of floating cities to shelter people in a climate-ravaged world shrouds the haunting, eerie story of two sisters attempting to find their way to each other, each of them just a little out of sync with the other. Both the structure and language has a dreamlike quality to it, mini details fleshing out the world building to provide a story that feels realistic in both setting and character. By the time you’ve found your way to the end, it’s not letting you go.
Book: The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He
Synopsis: Cee woke up on the shores of an abandoned island three years ago with no idea how she got there. Now eighteen, she lives in a shack with an ageing android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and she has to escape to find her.
From the safety of the eco-city floating above Earth, now decimated by natural disasters, sixteen year-old Kasey mourns Cee whom she’s sure is dead. She too wants to escape: the eco-city is meant to be a sanctuary for people who want to save the planet, but its inhabitants are willing to do anything for their refuge, even lie. Is Kasey ready to use technology to help Earth, even though it failed her sister?
Cee and Kasey think that what they know about each other and their world is true. Both are wrong.
Publisher: Text Publishing
(Reading time: 2 mins)
I started reading this book in December and finished it this month, and it has been such a good option for starting off my 2022 reading. I found myself reading it very quickly, absolutely captivated by the lyricism of the writing. The world building, too, is excellent, if admittedly sometimes confusing; but that is more than made up for by the absolute deluge of feelings at every step of this story. Many parts of it make your chest ache, the sisters’ loss of each other and the loss of Earth as a habitable planet compounding into the sense that everyone lives alongside a ghost, haunted.
“Even now, the ache lodged in her chest like a foreign body that did not belong, and the soreness of her throat, chafed from the scream, was pain she had to resist swallowing.”
This book is from the acclaimed author of Descendent of a Crane, which I admit I have neither read nor know a lot about. It’s sci-fi, as the synopsis suggests. Although the setting is about a world ruined by the effects of global warming (an SF topic I see more frequently these days!), the story is a world of cities that float in the air, androids, realistic holo-imagery and various other essentials of a science fiction story.
I think the world building is excellent. This may just be because I’m obsessed with climate-changed dystopia stories (I know, I won’t analyse my psyche too deeply there), but there are lots of little details here that really make it believable. For example, people in the eco-cities are granted admission there based on rank, and those with a history of profiting from fossil fuel industries in their families are given the opposite of preferential treatment. Or, people travel everywhere by hologram imagery rather than physically, to save on all of the precious resources – including space – that they would otherwise need.
I think it’s really cleverly put together, particularly because the story doesn’t open with this floating city, but the sea. The immediacy of the sea, the danger of it and the wholly tactile nature of it is in vast contrast to the story we think we will get, and that continues throughout the book.
The story itself is about two sisters: Cee, who is washed up on an island, alone. She has little memories beyond the urgency of knowing she must find her sister, Kay. Meanwhile, Kasey’s story is set in the floating city above, where she is dealing with the sudden and unexplained loss of her bright, popular sister. As the title suggests, the girls then spend the story finding their way back to each other. Kind of.
I loved both the sisters’ personalities, as well as all of the little side characters. Cee is someone who wants to live, swim in the sea even if it’s polluted with chemicals, for example, just to feel something real. Meanwhile, Kasey is reserved. She doesn’t understand her sister, or other people, and she doesn’t understand herself, either, or the lacking she finds there. As much as both sisters are searching for each other in the story, they also search for themselves. Amidst a backdrop of a climate disaster, a mysterious death and even more mysterious side characters, the tangible emotions they feel, at their situations and for each other, is only heightened.
I definitely think this book is one that produces unexpected twists throughout that keep you on your toes. The vibe of this book is something dreamlike, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much, but if you’re not into a story that feels a bit unfinished, or a clear A to B plot, then this may not be for you…despite the beautiful cover!
Is this worth the read? Very much, in my opinion, particularly if you like climate-change SF&F.
What to read next? I’ve immediately added the author’s previous book onto my reading list!