Saturday, July 30, 2022

A Half-Built Garden


A Half-Built Garden is an intelligent and compelling SF first contact near-future novel by Ruthanna Emrys. Released 26th July 2022 by Macmillan on their Tor Forge imprint, it's 352 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a beautifully written story, slow moving, with gravitas. I was engaged quite literally from the first page. Alien first contact stories are a favorite and this is a good one. It's set in 2083 and humans have finally banded together (more or less) to banish the corporations to isolated outposts and are in a desperate race to save Earth and maintain habitability. The aliens show up to convince what's left of humanity to abandon Earth before a catastrophe renders it a lost cause.

The first person protagonist/narrator is sympathetically written, intelligent, queer, compassionate, and three dimensional. There's a lot of content in the book extrapolating out from corporate oligarchy, corruption, greed, and the nature of power and the effect that has on our climate and habitat. At the same time, it's very much a story about parenthood and identity and the fact that diapers have to be changed and babies insist on being fed even if you're just a few minutes from first contact with alien lifeforms. Some of the mentions of parenting moments gave a whiff of whimsy, some of them, I felt, broke up the narrative thread a bit and yanked me out of my suspension of disbelief.

There is a very human story here, wrapped in a breathtakingly creative world building which made me pause at several points in amazement. Ms. Emrys is a gifted storyteller and this is a well written story. 

Four stars. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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