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Wilders (Project Earth) Paperback – June 13, 2017
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“A captivating eco-thriller…. Wilders blends environmentalism, futurism, and science fiction for an engaging story with important messages about humanity’s relationship with the world around it.”
“Wilders is a vision of future America that’s by turns exhilarating and terrifying. With a heroine you can genuinely root for and a world that’s an all-too-likely outcome of our generation’s choices, Wilders is one of the best near-future adventures in years. Combining the ecology of rewilding, next-gen robotics, and the savage politics of a post-global America, this is a book that raises and answers more questions than most writers manage in an entire series. And there’s more to come!”
—Karl Schroeder, award-winning author of Lockstep
“A vivid picture of a world rebuilding from the edge of ecological ruin and the seeming conflicts between civilization and the nature it depends on.”
—Ramez Naam, award-winning author of the Nexus series
“Wilders is a fantastic voyage into a beautifully intricate solarpunk future. Cooper’s work is philosophically and psychologically relevant. Throughout Wilders, she gracefully examines the tensions between emerging technologies, human nature, and our ecosystem.”
—Gray Scott, futurist and techno-philosopher
PRAISE FOR THE WORK OF BRENDA COOPER:
"Spear of Light exceeds my already high expectations for a Brenda Cooper novel. The exploration of what makes us human shines through this entertaining read."
--J. A. Pitts, author of Black Blade Blues
"I loved Brenda Cooper's Philip K. Dick Award-nominated novel Edge of Dark, but the follow-up, Spear of Light, is even better. Cooper pits human against post-human and brilliantly reveals the best and worst of her characters. This is a fascinating, well-realized world."
--Patrick Swenson, author of The Ultra Thin Man
"Like...most of Brenda Cooper's work, really, Edge of Dark is a wonderful fusion of the character's futurist and science fiction vision with well-drawn characters and character dynamics that propel the plot and action."
--Skiffy and Fanty
"Fascinating... Edge of Dark is worth reading for a unique vision of artificial intelligences... and Cooper gives you a lot to think about."
"An intelligent, thoughtful look at what it might mean to coexist with superior AIs that we ourselves have created. Brenda Cooper's universe is detailed, inventive, and ultimately dazzling. I will remember Chrystal for a very long time."
--Nancy Kress, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula awards
About the Author
Brenda Cooper is the author of Edge of Dark and Spear of Light, Books One and Two of The Glittering Edge series; The Creative Fire and The Diamond Deep, Books One and Two of Ruby's Song; and the The Silver Ship series. Her most recent short-story collection is Cracking the Sky. She is also the author of Mayan December and has collaborated with Larry Niven (Building Harlequin's Moon). Cooper is a working futurist and a technology professional with a passionate interest in the environment.
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Wilders is marketed only as sci-fi currently as far as I can tell and although I feared it would read like a young adult novel, I selected it anyway. It seems very much YA to me and I think the marketing should lean into that.
There are some interesting ideas in this book and it did keep me engaged enough to finish it. It was pleasant enough to read and kept up a decent pace. However, the book hinted at a lot of intrigue that didn't play out in a very surprising way and when twisty things did occur it was confusing to follow. Characters weren't very deep and the dialogue was sometimes cringeworthy. Main character was always getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time - it happened so often you knew it was coming.
There was a hint of romance that was cute and I hope it continues in the follow-up book. The setting was a reasonable imagining of a future earth and is a big part of the reason that this is an OK read. It just doesn't have a lot of depth beyond the setting.
I had a hard time getting into this story. Earth has suffered some environmental cataclysm and most of the people live in large domed cities. The cataclysm is far enough into the past that it's perfectly possible to live outside and many people do, farmers and those workers who want to 'reclaim' the earth and make vast areas wild again.
Coryn, the protagonist, is an orphan. Her parents committed suicide and left their two daughters in the care of the state. It's not bad care really, all things considered. That is, I guess, my biggest problem with the story. Life inside the city seems pretty boring really, but it's not particularly oppressive and anyone who wants to leave is welcome to do so. I am unclear as to why these parents would kill themselves and leave their two kids alone, but Coryn accepts their suicides without question. They were 'unhappy' is the only explanation, and Coryn seems to be OK with that. It's not clear what work her parents did, but they had enough money to buy their youngest daughter a robot bodyguard.
At legal adulthood (age 18), every citizen is expected to choose a job, and depending on the importance of that job, they get paid (again) by the state. Even the lowliest jobs seem to provide a very comfortable living though. Coryn's older sister reached adulthood and left the city to work in the wilds, protecting some of the few animals that are left on earth. Coryn reaches adulthood and decides to go outside the city and find her sister. She is accompanied by her companion robot.
This is the point where I started losing interest. The wild areas are fairly lawless, though not completely so since there are patrolling robots whose job it is to protect the environment and in doing that, they seem to enforce some level of protection for the humans as well. Coryn's journey into the wild areas is one long walk and the biggest thing she has to worry about is, will someone steal her robot?
Now, this is part one of a series, so there's probably a lot more to this story than it appears, but I can't get interested in these people. Two parents who apparently died of boredom leave behind two spoiled kids who decide to 'buck the system'. But why? What's so awful about anyone's life? There are hints that 'the rich' have an unreasonable amount of control over everyone else's circumstances, but meh that happens all the time, doesn't it? Even outside the city, in the 'wilds', one reason given for discontent is that the people only get to see a doctor once a year. Seriously? Yeah, let's stage a revolution over that one. NOT.
I can't really stay interested in this story. These people are just spoiled brats. I have no idea why any of them are complaining.
Reading Wilders was a struggle from the get go. It took me three weeks to finish. I haven’t had this much difficulty forcing myself to finish something since my senior English class read Faulkner. I may take Faulkner over Wilders.
The future is divided between the cities and the unincorporated land outside them, intended to be restored to nature and wilderness. Coryn Williams lives in the megacity of Seacouver but is left orphaned after her parents double suicide. Her sister Lou leaves her behind to become a ranger, working for an NGO on the outside. On her eighteenth birthday, Coryn is determined to reunite with Lou… so she ventures outside her city, accompanied only by her robot Paula.
I don’t know where to start with Wilders. It’s just got so many problems. I kept trying to think of something positive to say about it and coming up blank. I did eventually hit on one positive: Wilders is well intentioned. It drips with earnestness. Brenda Cooper clearly cares about the ecology and the environment. However, the author’s sincerity was not enough to make Wilders readable.
Wilders starts with a completely unnecessary two page long info dump about the setting. Honestly, that was the first sign I wasn’t going to like this book. Then Wilders starts up the actual storyline about Coryn. This leads me to something that bugged me throughout the entire book.
How the heck is it the city’s fault that Coryn’s parents killed themselves? The narrative keeps asserting that her parents killed themselves because they hated living in the city so much. Here’s the thing. They weren’t trapped in the city. Coryn literally just walks out when she decides to go find Lou. So if they didn’t like living in the city… couldn’t they just leave? From what I can tell, her parents didn’t die “because of the city.” They died because they had mental health issues that I see no way the city was responsible for. This future involves some sort of universal healthcare that appears to be much better than whatever America currently has. Coryn mentions going to the doctor whenever she needs to, not worrying about it. She also mentions her mom was on anti-depressants, so she was getting at least some sort of treatment for her depression. So from everything I can tell, her parents were getting health care coverage and treatment (from the city FYI), so it’s not the fault of the medical system that they killed themselves. The explanation implied by Wilders is that her parents killed themselves because they hated living in the city since “the city’s soulness not like nature” or something along those lines.
I just… this entire backstory makes me so angry. I really don’t like the whole “it’s the city’s fault” line of thought. For one, the city erases many of the social ills our country currently struggle with. Coryn’s family had a guaranteed basic income, housing, and healthcare. That’s more than can be said for many families right now. Secondly, a walk in the woods isn’t going to cure depression. As someone who has been depressed, trust me when I say that reconnecting with nature isn’t going to magically fix your brain attacking itself. I found the plot point of Coryn’s parents suicide incredibly frustrating and to be trivializing mental health issues.
Of course, all of that happens within the first twenty pages or so. There’s still the rest of the book. Coryn’s fifteen when her parents kill themselves, but she’s eighteen for the majority of the book. Unfortunately, she reads more like twelve. I don’t expect eighteen year old protagonists to be completely mature, but I do expect a degree of common sense. Coryn doesn’t tell Lou she’s coming to live with her. She just walks into a completely unknown, potentially dangerous situation. I kept thinking that she was spoiled and bratty. Logically, I know that she lived in an orphanage for three years after her parents killed themselves, but I couldn’t stop thinking of Coryn as “spoiled.” On the bright side, at least I got the impression of a character trait? The cast as a whole was completely cardboard and two dimensional. The characters were little more than names on the page.
There was an attempt at a romance subplot. I would have been annoyed about it, but it was mostly just so bland and half baked that it never even got on my nerves. Truthfully, it was the least of this book’s problems.
For instance, I am still not sure what was going on with the plot. Eco-terrorists are definitely involved, but I haven’t figured out whether or not Lou was one? Lou and some of her ranger friends were planning something, but I am confused as to what they were trying to do. It must have been more than just a protest. Lou and some of the other characters felt sort of like those extreme animal rights people who think anyone who’s not a vegan is a murderer. At one point she calls species extinction “genocide,” although thankfully Coryn comments that the word choice seems a bit extreme. No duh. As terrible as killing polar bears is, it’s extremely offensive to compare it to the Holocaust.
It took me three weeks to finish reading Wilders, and I lost track of how many other books I started and finished during that time. The world building, the characters, the plot… in all regards Wilders was unsatisfying. It’s not a book I would ever recommend.
I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.
Most recent customer reviews
While it's SF, it's got all the trappings of your general YA dystopia.Read more