Reviewed by Nick Rees Gardner
An urgent work of eco-apocalyptic fiction, David A. Collier’s Desperation 2647 shows the struggles of a tight-knit family in a failing futuristic world.
Desperation 2647, the second novel in David A. Collier’s Earth’s Ecocidetrilogy, is a cautionary tale imagining a 27th-century Earth in which all the awful predictions of climate change have come true.
Collier’s future human race has not learned from the sea-level rise and increased temperatures we are already experiencing today. Instead they invent cooling vests to fight the heat and seawalls to battle the growing waves. They treat the symptoms of climate change rather than try to reverse it. Deniers and capitalists wage war against the expensive “megamachines” invented to remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere because the machines are too expensive. Similar to the current climate crisis, money, war, and a lack of foresight have hindered any chances of changing the trajectory of Earth’s demise. Collier’s Earth in the year 2647 is one that is beyond repair, a warning of what might face humanity if we do not recognize the growing issue of climate change and act fast.
The place is Florida, the year 2647, and despite the unlivable heat and rising oceans, Dr. Vela Paris, her son Kutter, and daughter Livia, want to live a normal life. At 17, Livia takes a self-driving car to swim practice while her brother, Kutter, a college graduate, prepares for basic training. Vela is a renowned ecologist and tenured professor at Florida Polytechnic University and balances on the fine line between motherhood and her career since her husband passed away several years ago.
The family is close-knit, comfortable, and aided by their robot Nila who is very much a loved part of the household. However, while on a virtual reality expedition, the Parises communicate with an orb of blue light that destabilizes their lives for good. The government and military get involved, disrupting the Parises comfortable lives as they try to manage the Blue Orb, to understand its purpose and message. The Parises struggle with both climate change and a government that won’t implement the changes necessary to reverse it, to buy them more time. As Kutter astutely states: “‘We have two enemies…One is climate change, and the other is us.’”
At the heart of Desperation 2647 is the critique of human conquests, from governments to technology, to wars, but Collier also comments on the importance of family, of care for one another. Even Dr. Chris Hamlet, director of the Federal Intelligence Agency, is expanded beyond the two-dimensionality of a government pawn and shown as a caring human who struggles with his power and role in deciding the fate of the Paris family.
The family’s care for one another gives them strength through the loss they face as the story goes on, and it seems that no matter how much destruction and turmoil Collier or the dying world throws at them, they persevere in their love. Collier never ceases to surprise, laying on new levels of desperation, but at the heart of the novel is an uplifting hope of the perseverance of human compassion.
While the message of Desperation 2647 is important and hopeful, it requires quite a bit of worldbuilding. The exposition is front-and-center and sometimes obstructs the momentum of the story, as well as the tension. But it is a well-studied world with a deliberate projection of the future Earth as its setting. Collier doesn’t fall prey to easy outs and happy endings, but inflicts the full, unflinching, and realistic brutality of human-caused climate change. He describes intricately and accurately how the sea will rise with the temperatures and the struggle that life will become if the Earth isn’t nourished and cared for. Filled with reminders of how the Earth of 2647 got this way, the message can feel heavy-handed, but maybe that heavy-handedness is necessary. The message is definitely urgent.
Collier’s Desperation 2647 acts as mostly a warning that this Earth must be treated better. It is a premonition of a gloomy future that will become reality if humanity doesn’t act now. But more subtly, it catalogs human accomplishments, from the invention of artificial intelligence to the human ability to stick together and love one another. It’s an admonishment of human overreaching but a recognition of perseverance, compassion, and hope.
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