When the entire world is bursting at the seems and not able to handle the stress, what is the answer? In The Offset, by Calder Szewczak, a special ceremony has been initiated…. When a child turns 18, if both parents are still alive, the child must choose one their parents to die in a special ceremony in order to offset the global effects of another life on the planet. This event is accepted, though not loved or embraced, because of its necessity.
Jac Boltanski is a scientist who is working on a revolutionary project to replace radioactive trees in Greenland with genetically modified trees. But someone may be messing with her data or the project itself.
Meanwhile, Jac’s daughter Miri, with whom Jac has not had a very good relationship, has run away from home and brought back after a run-in with the law shortly before the next Offset ceremony. Miri has to decide if she will choose the parent she loves, or the parent she hates (Jac) who is actively working on a project that could ultimately cancel the need for the Offset ceremony.
The basic concept of the Offset is not unique to science fiction. Logan’s Run comes first to mind and I suspect I could name more if I gave it some thought. But I haven’t seen this theme lately despite its being more topical than ever.
But the theme of over-crowding and the science to fight it, takes a back seat to the human story. Jac’s life and Miri’s life – the human story of mother and daughter who don’t get along is the real story here, framed in context of an overcrowded world gone awry and the science trying to correct it.
This is the kind of story that I truly enjoy. Grandiose themes and consequences that can doom an entire planet, but as humans our loves and lives are even more important to us. Calder Szewczak does a really good job of balancing the stories and keeping the human element in focus. But Szewczak doesn’t ignore the global complications – the science isn’t just background – the science is what could take this from just one book into a series.
In general, I enjoyed this read. There were times that I felt the book got a bit slow and I just wanted to jump ahead, but these moments were few.
Looking for a good book? The Offset by Calder Szewczak is a dystopian scifi novel of over-population and science but the heart of the novel is a parent/child relationship.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Calder Szewczak
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 240 pages