TITLE: The City Where We Once Lived
AUTHOR: Eric Barnes
PUBLICATION DATE: 2018
"In a near future where climate change has severely affected weather and agriculture, the North End of an unnamed city has long been abandoned in favor of the neighboring South End. Aside from the scavengers steadily stripping the empty city to its bones, only a few thousand people remain, content to live quietly among the crumbling metropolis. Many, like the narrator, are there to try to escape the demons of their past. He spends his time observing and recording the decay around him, attempting to bury memories of what he has lost.
But it eventually becomes clear that things are unraveling elsewhere as well, as strangers, violent and desperate alike, begin to appear in the North End, spreading word of social and political deterioration in the South End and beyond. Faced with a growing disruption to his isolated life, the narrator discovers within himself a surprising need to resist losing the home he has created in this empty place. He and the rest of the citizens of the North End must choose whether to face outsiders as invaders or welcome them as neighbors.
The City Where We Once Lived is a haunting novel of the near future that combines a prescient look at how climate change and industrial flight will shape our world with a deeply personal story of one man running from his past. With glowing prose, Eric Barnes brings into sharp focus questions of how we come to call a place home and what is our capacity for violence when that home becomes threatened."
This novel starts of slowly and doesn't pick up pace. The setting was developed very nicely, showing how depressing, bland and pointless - presumably the reflection of the live of the people in the North End, and the main character (narrator) in particular. The prose is beautiful, but there is very little action in this novel and the plot is weak. The narrator is a writer/reporter and we get to read about his observations of the North End and his personal issues. These however, come across as irrelevant, even though they are the stuff of nightmares. The author's concepts of how climate change, pollution and industrial flight affect a particular community is interesting, but it fades into the background. I would have liked to have seen this idea explored a little more. There IS light at the end of this dystopian novel. The concept of the scavangers and how the people in the North End choose to live, as well as the gardener are all interesting ideas. What the community chooses to do to survive, instead of devolving into chaos, is also rather different from the usual dystopian stories. I just wish this book wasn't so bland and that the narrator had a bit more personality.