J.L. Morin’s new book is an ‘eco-loving romance’ in which ‘two teens fight to save the universe from polluters.’ In what is billed as a thought-provoking adventure, the two young protagonists inadvertently invent eco-friendly living computers in a world where the human race have allowed corporations to pollute Earth beyond recognition and enslave everybody. These two teens ‘blast off into space to save the planet, the universe and their love.’ Teaming up with a female droid, who ‘uncovers cutting-edge scientific mysteries on a voyage through the Big Bang and back’, the two heroes attempt to scupper the polluters of Earth and other fertile worlds. ‘Will youth lead the way to harmony with Nature?’ asks the back of this cli-fi (climate-change fiction) story.
At any rate, that is what the long, long blurb promises. The book fails to deliver. What baffles me is how they managed to get such fantastic praise for Morin’s odd yarn. Even the reviewers on Amazon sing highly of its merits. I wonder if it is victim to its genre, in that people like the message, but have forgotten how it was delivered. As with Wonder by R. J. Palacio, I think readers of Nature’s Confession are more bowled over by the idea than the delivery – what would happen if we were to continue on this path of using up Earth’s resources?
It is an important topic and I, for one, am strongly in favour of renewable energy and think we must change our ways before our planet simply cannot sustain us anymore. However, Nature’s Confession is a jumble of a story – leaping from place to place, inserting sudden plot devices, characters and changing POVs. Considered as a piece of writing, it is simply ridiculous.
Part of this, but only part, is undoubtedly the fault of over-promising on the part of the jacket blurb. For one, the teenage romance is a non-starter. Boy (who will not have a name until he is a man) and Valentine (the auburn-haired girl of his dreams, literally) are not together for most of the story, due to Valentine’s father favouring Boy over her for a coding project in which Boy creates living computers. Valentine does not take this well, and they barely meet at all during the course of the book, until near the end when Boy has gone wild living on a new fertile planet, where – having renamed himself MakSym – he is trying to teach new tribes of humanoids to live as one with Nature by evolving only so far as medieval times, but without fire. That is, until it’s convenient to blow up a petrol-fuelled Jeep that they had been using for years without re-fuelling it. Confused? Too right!
In the middle of this ‘eco-loving romance’, we meet Any Gynoid: a hastily put together, inexplicably feline droid (she has leopard spots and a tail). Any travels via the Big Bang into the fairly recent past, in the company of Boy’s father, Porter: a feckless civil servant who thinks he’s running away with her for a scandalous affair (not noticing she is a droid, spots and tail notwithstanding). They then do battle in some corporate building alongside many Anys and many Porters, because travelling via the Big Bang into the past created many, many timelines and time loops, creating many, many Anys and Porters. They save planet Earth, a past version of Boy and his mother (which we had already seen happening in real time earlier in the book), and then they all leave, going back to their respective timelines.
In the meantime, Boy’s mother, Eleanor, starts a cheese company on their new planetoid, and becomes an ambassador for a (different) newly fertile planetoid, accidentally given life by a space probe that Earth sent out. But really, it’s all just a front for corporations to mine for oil – itself just an excuse to garner subsidies from Starliament (I kid you not). Boy/MakSym battles the evil corporations – I think he wins – and the whole book ends on a positive, but unclear note, with a spaceship taking off powered solely (or should that be ‘soully’?) by human souls harvested (or, rather, volunteered by the souls themselves) from tombs.
Oh, and because everybody on Earth was randomly enslaved by governmental proclamation by the enormously fat Emperor, everything has had an ‘e’ put in front of it, e.g., eHarvard. And there’s a dog with six legs and six tails, who can mind-read through smell and influence humans’ thoughts. And there’s lots of badly explained science, convenient science, and poorly thought out science. And dropped-in, made-up words, poor grammar, misspellings, and weird formatting; and the quotes at the top of each chapter seem to run out of steam, with Morin beginning to quote her own characters.
Overall, I would say this is a solid first draft of a novel with considerable potential. But it needs a lot of work to sort out the jumbled plot, to get its message straight and have a very, very thorough proof-read. It was painful to think this had been published in this state, by an actual publishing company run by Harvard University alumni. Especially in light of the staggering cover price (admittedly cheaper when you buy the Kindle version), this is best avoided. Come back when it’s finished.