I’m a fairly voracious reader and generally have about 2- 3 books on the go at any one time. While I’ve been a little busy sorting out my worldly goods into keep/donate/trash piles, I’ve also had some welcome distractions such as this new release from Michael Muntisov and Greg Finlayson. I’m a little biased as I enjoy speculative fiction, but do give this a read!
Full review of the The Court of the Grandchildren by Michael Muntisov and Greg Finlayson, Odyssey Books, 2021
I have always enjoyed speculative fiction, so naturally jumped at the chance to review The Court of the Grandchildren (thank you Odyssey Books!). Although this story doesn’t seem to be that speculative, given the themes explored in the book – the impact of climate change on future generations, the use of predictive models to determine government policies (climate policy to be exact), and human-AI (artificial intelligence) relations. In reading this, you can almost see the trajectory of societal development if we don’t take drastic action to mitigate climate change. Or is it already too late, and future generations will judge us accordingly for our inaction and lack of political will in finding a resolution to this crisis.
Set in 2059 in a climate-ravaged America where inland states are dealing with the influx of climate refugees from coastal states, the Court of the Grandchildren weaves the story of Lily Miyashiro and David Moreland, long-lost kin navigating life in this Anthropocene era. The major difference is David is of the “burner” generation, a derogatory term used to describe the elderly generation whose actions have led to the current state of the world. Burners are often harassed on the streets, with the general population deeming them responsible for the death and destruction wrought upon the earth.
In seeking an end to his 96 years, David needs agreement from his great-niece Lily as well fulfill all outstanding social obligations, i.e., facing the “Climate Court” (a Truth & Reconciliation style commission where past wrongdoings pertaining to the climate are examined in the hope of healing and bringing about closure for those whose lives have been upended by the actions of the previous generation. Together with his carer, Lily encourages David to face the Climate Court, where his decisions in shaping America’s (and possibly the world’s) climate policies would be called into question and judgement rendered by public vote.
Told from both Lily’s and David’s POV and interspersed with transcripts of David’s appearance in the Climate Court, this is a well-paced and engaging story with well-developed characters whose life experiences have shaped their views. Supporting characters are also layered and multi-dimensional, and complements David’s and Lily’s stories.
In addition to highlighting the fact that the use of predictive models in determining government policy shouldn’t be taken as gospel (our decisions are only as good as our data!), I especially liked the book’s exploration of the human – AI relationship, alluding to the question if humans and AI can co-exist harmoniously, or if humans would be made redundant when AI seemingly takes over all forms of interactions. With the ubiquity of AI in this world, people are naturally wary of how much AI is encroaching into human life, and both David and Lily are suspicious of the role of AI in their world. However, as the story progresses, they see how it was AI that brought them together, and they realise how beneficial AI can be, not only for companionship but in assisting with decision-making as well.
All in all, this is an engrossing and timely story, given the state of the world today. Highly recommend!
And now back to advertising my furniture online. Only 2 more months to go!