CLEAN AIR - Sarah Blake
A window into a potential future, a commentary on our Earth's ecosystemic future, a murder mystery, and a story of motherhood all in one. Clean Air is hard to pin into one category. And that's not a bad thing at all.
Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2
This one's a weird one. But worth a try for the right audience, and anyone who is interested in genre mashes.
Clean Air follows the story of Izabel, a stay-at-home mom, who lives in a bubble home. (Ok, technically an airtight dome around her property, but still.) Her husband, Kaito, works remotely with the robot technology that harvests food in this brave new world. Her young daughter, Cami, only knows this life. The future has come.
Humanity's climate-changing, disasterous ways finally led to a crisis: the trees revolted. Gradually, or not-so-gradually depending on who you ask, the trees began to produce a poisonous pollen in such large quantities that it began to wipe out humans. In large masses. This feels vaguely like a mixed metaphor of COVID and climate, but the author handled it pretty well.
Now, a much, MUCH smaller civilization of humanity eeks out a life in these bubble communities that exist to prevent exposure to the rest of the planet. It's almost idyllic, when you get past the sheer "OH MY GOD" of it all.
Everyone is happy, everyone is cared for, everyone if cohabiting...
Nothing will go wrong again, right?
Humans are totally, totally able to exist without fracturing in some way...right?
Sigh. Of course not.
When someone viciously punctures a hole in a family's bubble home one night, the entire family dies from the pollen exposure. It was a murder, and it had to have been done by one of the community members. And the murderer keeps doing it, and more people keep dying.
Izabel, our mom with no experience, turns into our amateur investigator as she realizes that if someone doesn't stop this murderer, they'll eventually get to her and her family. It quickly becomes a fixation for Izabel... and we're along for the ride.
I thought Clean Air did a ton of things really well--juggling a bunch of different genres, juxtaposing this future situation with our own, and highlighting the core tenants of humanity that remain no matter the year, or the situation, or the future. Motherhood remains. Corruption remains. The will to survive remains. And some other things.
As someone who is not usually a science fiction/dystopian/futuristic reader, I can't say this novel was an ultimate favorite for me—it would have needed something speculative/magical to truly attach as that's who I am as a reader--I think it speaks to Clean Air's credit that I stayed invested and gripped by Izabel's journey the entire time. The murder mystery definitely helped with that, as without that compelling whodunit/whydunit narrative it would have felt much more meandering for me.
Overall, a very engaging and compelling read. Definitely recommended for fans of any of the genres I've mentioned so far, and anyone interested in the prismatic future predictions of climate change fiction.
Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.