You know when you read a book and you’re enthralled with the world building and you don’t quite want it to end? That is exactly how I would describe my relationship with ‘Firewalkers’ by Adrian Tchaikovsky. What’s worse, for me at least, is that this is a ‘novella’ not a long novel so I couldn’t spend as much time in this world as perhaps a normal book.
Firewalkers are brave. Firewalkers are resourceful. Firewalkers are expendable.
The Earth is burning. Nothing can survive at the Anchor; not without water and power. But the ultra-rich, waiting for their ride off the dying Earth? They can buy water. And as for power?
Well, someone has to repair the solar panels, down in the deserts below.
Kids like Mao, and Lupé, and Hotep; kids with brains and guts but no hope.
We are introduced to the near future of a burning Earth. Climate change has wrecked it’s damage across the world – there are parts of it underwater, and other parts that simply don’t have any water. We meet our main characters in the equatorial zone of the planet, at an anchor point to a spaceship, where the future of humankind will live out their lives ‘continuing’ the species. Those on the ground? Well, they’re screwed. They’re left behind, serving the ships in space until they are no longer needed.
Firewalkers is a term for the kids (no one gets old anymore. They die of diseases like cancer or hard labour first). The kids – mainly in their late teens – go into the arid, dry world and fix whatever it is that needs fixing. Fixing whatever it is that the robots out there cannot fix, because at some point, someone needs to fix the robots.
Solar panels generate the electrical needs for the small towns that may have water. Desalination occurs near the sea water, there is no water table here. There is a hotel in the township our characters are from, and everything this town does is to service that hotel and the rich clients that make the town their last stopping place on Earth before ascending to the spaceship ‘The Grand Celeste’ and to safety. Money buys you everything.
Mao, Lupe and Hotep are sent into the desert to find out why the power is being disrupted to the hotel, and to fix it. That’s what they do – fix the things that the powerful, rich and mighty don’t have to do.
This book was such a ride in it’s some 200 pages. I wish it was longer, or had a sequel planned or something. The main characters were distinct from one another, each with a great backstory and motivation for doing what they did. I don’t want to give anything away from the main plot points, but that ending was also totally unexpected. If anything, it could have done with being fleshed out a little more as I was initially confused as to what was happening, but then again, maybe that was the point?
Ultimately this was a story of what happens when desperation meets resentment, when survival is everything and there is nothing left to lose. Plus a little mystery in the middle of strange houses and solar forests.
Adrian Tchaikovsky has very quickly become one of my favourite authors with his ‘Children of Time’ series, and I am definitely looking to expand my reading of his other works too.
Also, just because I want to add this here – my copy of Firewalkers was a signed edition, and that makes me happy too!
What are you reading at the moment? My next book will be the new Hunger Games book ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’. I’ve heard good things, and managed to get it half price at Costco the other day!