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3.0 out of 5 starsIf you didn't like Station Eleven...
Reviewed in the United States on 27 February 2018
If, like me, you weren't that fond of Station Eleven, you may have a few issues with this book.
This is a literary soft apocalypse. I've found that, unlike Genre SF, Literary SF authors rarely worry about world building. Instead of delving into why things are happening, and using real science as a backdrop to fiction, Literary SF seems more like: This is my world and thus it is so. Accept it and let's talk about beauty and despair.
And, so, with a nod toward climate change, a beautiful turn of phrase, and many characters stuck in a robotic rut of despair and apathy, we have our world.
Almost all of our characters live by rote. They do exactly as they did before their world fell apart. Why? Because it's what they do. They don't know why they still go through the motions and they don't much care.
Our main character once did a terrible thing - really just about the most terrible thing ever - and still he goes day to day doing the same things in the same ways.
We don't know much about the rest of the world. We've been told there are no plants (there is an addendum to this later in the book) and the very ground may kill. Why? Climate change. How do they live in place without plants to create oxygen? Um...climate change? Why is the electricity still on? Apathy. Why is there running water still? Apathy. Why does someone still pay the newspaper reporter? Apathy and habit.
Eventually, our main character begins to move past apathy and habit (though never despair) and we contemplate civilization and how what really determines a civilized world is...what? People who don't feel enough to actually hate? Who help others because they must and because it's right, but with little joy or empathy?
I didn't hate the book. I didn't love the book. In fact, the apathy experienced by so many of its characters perhaps describes my feelings here. The book simply was because it...was.
3.0 out of 5 starsDepressing mostly, with a glimmer of hope
Reviewed in the United States on 28 August 2018
This book, was in my estimation, depressing. But considering the subject matter, a man who has lost his family and is living through the end results of a ecological disaster, I guess it is supposed to be.
The main character of this story, lives in a hotel room, that he has decided to occupy, after the North end of this city has been essentially declared uninhabitable. All city services, police, emergency and support services have been ended. This has been the trend world-wide as the cities have been dying out, and the population has dwindled. This roughly is explained due to rampant pollution. However, not everyone wants to follow the trend of shifting with the rest of the population.
In this dead section of this city, the North end, essentially the urban part of a city versus the South end, which was the suburban part, there remains only the die-hard people who want their freedom and are willing to forgo some comforts to have it. The main character, is the known as the writer. He writes the local newspaper, having falling into this position due to his interest of submitting a few articles. That’s the way things are in the South end. In his case he gets a modest compensation for this job. He has no idea who pays him. Similarly there is the press man, the minister/mortician and the gardener. All people who stepped into these occupations from interest and skill set. The rest of the population seems primarily salvagers and brokers, who slowly take apart the abandoned homes/factories to sell their parts. It is a hard and dangerous job.
The predominant theme is ennui, and hopelessness. Things are like this everywhere and there is no signs of it getting better. After a time, the North starts having issues with gangs of South end kids coming over to assuage their boredom. The North end can rally around this and essentially put a stop to it. Through their collective will, they want to ensure their peace.
Overtime, you get to know why the writer is the way he is and how things start to change both within him and the North end. It was however a sad and painful book to read. When I have a book like this, I make sure to be reading another not quite so heavy to lift the fugue a book like this can put over you. I understand the essential theme of protecting the environment, but I found this book a bit overwhelming at times
3.0 out of 5 starsReally, it's a city where they decided to stay, in spite of what they face
Reviewed in the United States on 17 February 2018
The City Where We Once Lived is Cormac McCarthy's The Road except that the narrator stays put in a city that everyone is leaving. In fact he tries to create a community in a city that's literally breaking down before his eyes. This is a story about trying to sustain humanity and civilization as infrastructure, politics and weather start falling apart. It's also a story of self-imposed isolation, since the narrator has a dark past he has decided to punish himself for.
While not on par with McCarthy in terms of fiction or flow, the book moves along nicely once you get used to the short, cryptic, inwardly focused sentences and observations. The reasons for the weather breakdown and general decay of society aren't examined, and it's strange that places that are abandoned have electricity and running water, but the story is about more than that.
On the whole there's a lot to like about the book, even if all the pieces don't always seem to fit together.
3.0 out of 5 starsCast Those Moving Into Their Decaying City As Invaders; Or, Welcoming Them As Neighbors/What Happened To The Truth?
Reviewed in the United States on 16 February 2018
A book with a lot of promise: but in the end: promises not kept. For one, there is the ever-present issue of climate change; where a common Earth gas, CO2 has been mythicized as the boogie man. The reason twofold: one, is someone has the take the rap for the real villain, CHEMTRAILS/HAARP, stratospheric aerosol geoengineering/solar radiation managent /chemtrails/ ionospheric heaters like HAARP; and two is the money-making weather derivatives of Goldman Sachs and their billion dollar carbon tax scam[Under An Ionized Sky: From Chemtrails To Space Fence Lockdown by Elana Freeland, March 6, 2018] For another, infrastructures in the west is being privatized[Trump just sold out America like Yeltsin did the Russia(until Putin stopped its privatization dead in its tracks[google: Michael Hudson Trump Privatization]. This is the proper frame into which to read: The City Where We Once Lived. This then tells the story through a man's eyes who has experienced it devastating results personally. He tells this story through the city where he lived. As the narrator he relates to the reader that he is a scavenger, like the few thousand left there, who are steadily stripping the city to its bones. He spends his time there also as a reporter recording the steady decay of his city. But, this purposed policy erosion is now happening on the other side of town as well. Now it is a question of casting these outsiders coming in from their decaying city - as invaders; or, welcoming them as neighbors. The real question, should be why isn't our media telling the public the truth? Or, has our media become privatized as well, and no longer serves the public?
3.0 out of 5 starsDystopian climate-fueled dark story
Reviewed in the United States on 6 March 2019
The City Where We Once Lived is an admirable book, admirable because of its plot, the imagination and the scope of the story. However where it fails is the execution and the characterization. Usually I don't have any issue with darker tales however this story really failed to hold my interest and I finished it because I almost never DNF a book. Overall this is 2.5 stars but the author has talent, and I hope he builds on it.