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The Effort

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An average entry into the dystopian future subgenre.  While marketing itself as a disaster adventure novel, it fits well with those who enjoy a story about why the earth is falling apart and who is to blame for it.  Which blame, predictably is cast against conservative political office holders.

I did enjoy the characters Ben and Amy and would have loved to have seen a more positive ending for their stories.

I would love to be able to recommend this one, but it just didn’t make a lasting impression with me, nor did the personalities of most of the characters.  I recommend taking a pass.
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I am a lifelong devotee of Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic /Dystopian/Catastrophic Scenario Fiction.  An aspect I "insist" on is vivifying the "disaster " or Apocalypse in human terms, by exploring how the lives of individuals are affected (and the planet, too, of course).

In THE EFFORT, we are treated to a vast cast of characters confronted with cosmic and human chaos, in the face of implacable and inexplicable terror. I particularly enjoyed the psychological treatments.
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I am disappointed in this book. It had such promise, but a complete lack of fully realized character story arc's and conclusions. I would love this author to take a step back, look at all of the storylines and edit out ones that she did not want to write an ending for. That way she could have at least focused on giving us a beginning, middle, and end to the stories of characters we were supposed to care about. The most frustrating one to me is that of Ben and Amy. They were soooo important to the saving of the world, and yet we leave them at a crucial point in the book and do not hear from them again. How incredibly frustrating! And the one woman who does wind up having the Hail Mary Pass that does save everyone is kicked out of the military campus after her portion of the project is done to fend for herself??? Come on! One other thing I need to add is that the characters the author did choose to focus on were so boring! Their unnecessary back stories really made me tune out and skim to the end of chapters. Overall, ridiculous plot points and lame endings really made this book a no-go for me. I love world ending novels and enjoyed the set up of this one initially which made me give it two stars.  Rant over....

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this advanced copy. All opinions are my own.
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Unfortunately, this one was a DNF for me. I couldn't get into the writing style or the characters. I need one or the other to keep me interested...especially in a "disaster book". I had high expectations for this one, because the story is right up my alley. But alas, it just didn't work out for me.
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This was a fantastic book. I was expecting a propulsive sci-fi thriller. Those elements were there, but it was more a slow-burn. With multiple POV characters at the front lines of The Effort, and on the periphery, this was an exploration of the effects of extinction level events, both slow moving, like climate change, governmental corruption, geopolitical maneuvering and immediate, like a dark comet on a collision course with the earth. 

UD3, a large, dark comet is discovered and we find out that it will hit the Earth in less than a year. In response to this, NASA sets up a base of operations in South America—The Effort. Scientists from all over the world, led by Dr. Benjamin Schwartz from NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, gather to save the world. I really thought this was going to be very conventional—a race to save the world with lots of science and lots of personality-driven  action.  But it was more interesting than that. We travel from the last expedition to document Arctic Ice on the Healy, to the  most remote villages of the Brazilian rainforest and see how people all around the world dealt with the fear and grief in facing the end of the world. I was so gratified that this turned out to be a book that was wider in scope than I expected.
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I read this immediately after finishing Project Hail Mary, which in retrospect was a mistake. I tried my best not to compare the two, but it was inevitable, and I think The Effort suffered in the comparison. 
 
This book reminded me somewhat of Station Eleven. This is not just because of the Apocalyptic premise, but it also comes from the narrative style: alternating POVs that take place before and during the world ending, showing us how our characters got to their present situation and shedding light on their backgrounds. The main difference is that the narratives in The Effort are less intertwined, and the post-apocalyptic portions all come at the end, rather than being interspersed. Also, Station Eleven is more literary in tone. I think The Effort was also trying for a literary feel, but it doesn’t quite manage it. 
 
Something about the pacing of the book didn’t sit right. The scenes themselves are relatively slow-paced, but at the same time, the timeline moves very rapidly. It feels like things happen quickly “off-screen” but fairly slowly “on-screen.” The result was that the book felt like too much story crammed into too few pages. 
 
Even with the uneven pacing, the book manages to ratchet up the tension as society unravels and civilization devolves into chaos. Although this happens mostly in the background, the book does a great job of portraying how fragile society is and how easily the institutions we depend on could fall apart. In this, it reminded me a lot of The Road. However, although things do get VERY dark, it refrains from wallowing in the same unrelenting bleakness as The Road. There is always a kernel of hope for most of the characters, whether that hope is The Effort itself or the simple connection between two people which keeps them from giving up. That enduring hope in the face of impending doom was what ultimately kept me reading. 
 
The ending felt abrupt and left me unsatisfied. The lack of resolution for certain key characters was the most unsatisfying aspect. I’m not sure if I’m meant to understand that everyone not explicitly mentioned as surviving is dead, or what. I'm not the type of reader who needs everything tied up in a neat bow, but the fact that they didn't get any kind of resolution left a bad taste in my mouth. 
 
I'd say this is a pretty good book, but it let me down at the end. It's worth reading, but I don't know that I'd want to revisit it, if that makes sense.
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Published by Grand Central Publishing on January 12, 2021

The Effort begins as a pre-apocalyptic novel that images, perhaps correctly, humanity brewing its own destruction as soon as people fear the threat of destruction by an outside force. The novel is, in the end, the story of the Wayãpi, an indigenous people of French Guiana and Brazil. The ending is more interesting than the beginning. Unfortunately, The Effort takes too many dead-end detours before it finds a story worth telling.

The novel begins with a comet hurtling toward Earth, the premise of more than one “can the Earth be saved?” movie. The usual suspects, including scientists and a multi-lingual interpreter, gather on the equator to consider Earth-saving options, culminating in the usual plan to nuke the comet. Unfortunately, a rocket that can deliver the warhead can’t be developed before the launch deadline until, with an assist from left field, a rocket suddenly appears. That part of the story, involving a Chinese scientist who arguably betrays her country to save the planet, is too muddled to build dramatic tension.

In fact, the entire “save the planet” premise eventually fizzles out as the story follows other plotlines. One involves passengers on the final voyage of a Coast Guard vessel performing scientific research on a polar expedition. The ship is eventually recalled after everyone on Earth is panicking and killing each other in anticipation that the meteor will kill them anyway. Before it reaches port, however, the captain discharges a couple of passengers, allowing the lovers a chance to survive in isolation, for a time at least, if the meteor doesn’t kill them immediately. The ship’s captain ends up doing a survivalist bit in the Cascade Mountains as he searches for his family, but his character development is so belated that the reader has no investment in him when he finally becomes important. The captain encounters a legitimate survivalist but, thankfully, The Effort isn’t an addition to the horrid collection of survivalist novels. In any event, that story fizzles away as Claire Holroyde moves on to another plot thread.

The concept of mass panic should be exciting but Holroyde makes it into an abstraction. The story breaks the “show, don’t tell” rule by keeping food riots and hoarding in the background, usually reported on the news or, in one instance, observed by a kid using a telescope on the balcony of a high-rise that seems to have escaped looters. For the most part, it is easy to forget that the world is falling apart because the story is so unfocused.

Holroyde’s most interesting theme concerns the Wayãpi, rainforest dwellers whose habitat is threatened by global warming and other sources of pervasive environmental destruction. Not only are they well situated to avoid the rioting and loss of technology upon which the rest of the world depends, the meteor might actually save the Wayãpi by destroying all the corporations that were ravaging the rainforest for their own selfish interests. The possibility of karma adds an upbeat note to the story, although I wouldn’t call this an upbeat novel.

There is ample reason to be pessimistic about the world’s future and there’s no reason fiction shouldn’t reflect that pessimism. My complaint about The Effort is that the story is too scattered to carry any weight. The potential meteor strike is a springboard for story lines that go nowhere. The Coast Guard ship and its captain and the couple who strike out on their own all have their moments, but not enough moments to make it possible to care about the characters or their fate. Most of the characters who work to save humanity from the meteor eventually fade from the story and the effort to save the Earth almost becomes an afterthought.

My sense is that Holroyd's ambition exceeded her ability to manage the story. The novel’s drama is dispersed along storylines that make no contribution to a larger point, while the central drama — the hope of saving Earth from the meteor or the panic caused by impending doom — isn’t dramatic at all. In the end, only the story of the Wayãpi gives the novel a purpose, but all the other plotlines get in the way of the one that matters. I liked the Wayãpi story enough to give the novel a cautious recommendation but I didn’t like the novel well enough to recommend it without caution.

RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS
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The end of the world has long been a mainstay of speculative fiction. Or at least, the end of the world as we know it. So many stories have been written about the aftermath of some cataclysmic event, something that has destroyed civilization, or at least radically altered it. You’ve got your post-apocalyptic stories, your dystopian stories – so many of them spring from that singular (and sometimes literally) Earth-shattering event.

What we get less often is the story of what leads up to that event, the tale that goes from the beginning of the end to the end.

That’s what Claire Holroyde’s debut novel “The Effort” gives us. It’s a story of mankind’s attempt to stave off the extinction-level event heading their way, all while dealing with the harsh reality of what it might mean when the fact that the end is nigh becomes widely known. It’s a taut, thrilling story of people committed to saving the world even as the world turns against itself.

No one thought much of the comet when it made its surprise appearance near Jupiter’s orbit. A dark comet, UD3 was more or less ignored when it popped up. But people in the know – people who made the study of near-Earth objects and their dangers their life’s work – are far more concerned. And it isn’t long before their concerns are made manifest.

Ben Schwartz is one of those people. He’s the manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies; basically, he’s one of the world’s foremost experts on the dangers of objects from space. He achieved a modicum of fame when he developed scores of hypothetical scenarios regarding how we could deal with an object on a trajectory to strike Earth.

Only now, it’s no longer a hypothetical.

One night, the phone rings and Ben – along with his girlfriend Amy – is whisked away to South America, to a spaceport that has been converted into what will become the most ambitious collaborative project in the history of man. Dubbed simply “the Effort,” Ben will lead a team of thousands in a race against time to try and come up with a plan to destroy or deflect UD3 before its eight-kilometer bulk slams into the Earth and causes the seventh mass extinction – but the first one to include humanity.

Meanwhile, on a Coast Guard icebreaker near the Arctic Circle, photographer Jack Campbell is on the job, trying to record the natural beauty of the polar icecaps before they are gone forever. His roommate aboard the ship is Gustavo Wayapi, an indigenous Brazilian poet and Nobel Laureate. His assignment rapidly falls by the wayside as news of the real dangers of UD3 begin to leak and the world reacts to the knowledge of its impending demise in a bleak but all too predictable fashion.

On the one hand, we have this massive effort devoted to finding a workable plan to save mankind. On the other, a small, intimate look at one man’s struggle to accept the things that he cannot change and instead seek beauty and truth in whatever small places he can find it. And behind it all, a ticking clock, one whose endtime is the obliteration of every living thing on Earth.

“The Effort” is a bit of a paradox, an undeniably bleak tale that still somehow contains small moments of hopefulness. Telling the story of a mission whose best-case scenario is one where only most of the world is in ruins is an obvious challenge – unrelenting darkness and despair is no way to go through life.

Yet Holroyde manages to do it while still leaving a few cracks through which light might shine. Not huge cracks, mind you. Not deus ex machina-sized cracks. Human-sized cracks that allow room for small happinesses in the face of massive disaster.

As you might imagine, there’s a propulsive quality to “The Effort.” The narrative is infused with an inevitability, one accentuated by the author’s decision to include a tag in each chapter heading that indicates just how many days we are from the end of everything. Those tags only add to the steady undercurrent of urgency that flows through the entire story, an omnipresent tension that the reader only really notices on the rare occasions that Holroyde decides to let them breathe.

Like all honest apocalyptic fiction, “The Effort” is a bit of a downer. This is not a sunshine-and-unicorns book. Things get dire. They get bleak. And Holroyde leans into it, unafraid to make sure that we know that when the time comes, the majority of us won’t survive even if we succeed. And yet, the book isn’t as pessimistic as I make it seem. Again – it all boils down to the author’s knack for giving us those brief, bright moments to offset the freight train of tragedy barreling down upon us.

In short, “The Effort” is a story where the impending ending is the beginning. It’s a taut page-turner of a read, narratively engaging and compulsively readable. Ultimately, your biggest effort with “The Effort” will be putting it down.
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The Effort by Claire Holroyde is a science fiction fantasy novel set in a near future timeline when it’s discovered that a extinction level event is coming in the near future for the planet. An eight kilometer wide comet is heading straight for Earth which could result in an impact along the lines of that which wiped out the dinosaurs from Earth.

The book follows the paths of many different participants as they prepare for the arrival of the comet. From scientists who are working frantically for a solution to divert the comet to regular families finding the end is near the story jumps from story to story all around the world including as far as the space station and the astronauts.

For me as a reader I usually find myself becoming completely immersed in doomsday scenarios on the pages of a book however with The Effort I felt that I never really got to that point. I think for me there was just too many points of view to follow to really become invested in their individual paths which led to a disconnect from the overall doom. It all just felt a little too familiar in concept from other novels and without truly caring for individual characters this became a so-so story to me.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
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I tend to swing back and forth these days between wanting to escape into light happy books and dark gritty end-of-the world ones, and obviously this title is in the latter category so if you're in the mood for the former you may want to steer clear. However, if you're looking for a good science fiction story about an apocalyptic scenario and human nature, THE EFFORT is solidly written with interesting characters and an all-too-real vision of what could happen in one such dark timeline. Recommended.
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This debut is extremely ambitious -- from the stakes of a looming extinction event to the scope of a very large ensemble cast -- it showcases the hearts and souls of individuals against a backdrop of the very best and the very worst humanity has to offer.

The prose is clean and crisp, and the wide, global setting provides some bittersweet context: humanity is scrambling to save a world we are already destroying. As Joni Mitchell said, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, and that is on full display in this novel.

The book really finds its stride about halfway through. My biggest complaint is that I wanted more time with all the POV characters. With a cast of characters this large, we tend to lose track of some of them as the story progresses, and the time we got with each of them felt like just scraping the surface. Still, it's these small, quiet moments with the characters that are the true gems of this book. 

In THE EFFORT, we are forced to confront some hard truths, and some beautiful ones. The earth will be just fine. Life goes on, though it changes radically. It's humanity that is threatened. And yet, while we are sometimes our own worst enemies, there is still something in us worth saving.
If you're looking for a darkly optimistic story about humanity facing a world-altering crisis and finding hope and connection in the darkest places, you should pick up THE EFFORT.
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Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception. - Carl Sagan

I loved this book. In many ways it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite apocalyptic novels THE HAB THEORY, published in 1976.

In this book, an extinction-level comet measuring 8km in diameter appears from the dark side of Jupiter, heading directly for Earth.

A veritable army of physicists, mathematicians, engineers, space experts, translators and more are sent to a space centre in French Guiana to try to develop a spacecraft that will either destroy the comet or divert it from its path towards Earth.

There are many side stories included in this novel, allowing us readers the chance to try to understand the terrible effects news of this calamity would have on the world way before it is scheduled to impact.

I enjoyed the many characters in this story and their contributions to The Effort, the name given to the overall project.

The story is frightening because it feels like it could actually happen.

I received this book from Grand Central Publishing through Net Galley in the hopes that I would read it and leave an unbiased review.
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DNF. I wanted to like this book so much, but it just couldn't hold my attention. I was bored. I don't DNF books often but I just couldn't do it anymore.
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I find that these days, I enjoy being prepared for all the possible apocalyptic scenarios, as one does. But The Effort went ahead and reminded me that we needn't bother, because human nature is to devolve into chaos and anarchy and frankly, the author is right. This is the commentary that is less hopeful, but more rooted in reality, and I am here for it.

The book opens with news of a comet that appears to be heading toward Earth. A team is to be assembled to try to save mankind, but no one is sure what the chances of success are, even the experts. The Effort, as it is dubbed, brings the best and brightest from all over the world to a base in French Guiana where the great minds will have to work basically nonstop, leave behind everything and everyone they know, and devote what remaining time is left to saving humanity.

Meanwhile, back in civilian territory, society is straight up devolving. It's interesting, how humanity would approach such an event. I am not sure if I agree that we'd shut down- I'm more inclined to think that as we have with the pandemic (especially in the United States), we'd remain woefully in denial. Either way, it would be a mess, so the author sure got that right. And in a third locale, scientists and a few artists find themselves on an Arctic sea voyage, trying to study the climate before its gone. I mean, finding out the world may end while you're stuck in the arctic? Not ideal.

As you may have gathered, we have quite a few points of view in this story. Some, I flat out loved. Some... I maybe could have lived without? But mostly I found them great. My personal favorite was the female Chinese scientist who is the actual best and also has a cleft lip/palate (I think the author perhaps confused a lip and palate repair, as the latter doesn't leave a scar but the former does, but it's an advanced copy, so I shall digress). Finally, finally, seeing a hero with a cleft instead of a villain, for the win! The female characters are especially strong and well-developed, and I was invested in both what happened to the characters and what would become of humanity as a whole.

Bottom Line:  In the end, does it even take a disaster to undo mankind? Or will we just do it ourselves? These are the incredibly thought provoking questions The Effort asks, with a great cast of characters trying to prevent the apocalypse.
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"The Effort" is a fantastic example of apocalyptic sci-fi.  The sweeping global perspectives, told through a diverse set of characters (both of origin and life experiences) creates a very real sense of how individuals might react to a world-ending situation. It's easy to fall into the pessimistic stance of how humanity as a whole could descend into chaos and self-destruction as a foregone conclusion, but Holroyde dissects the reason why that reaction would occur with a thoroughness that invokes deeper thoughts, and she doesn't stop there. She also finds elements of hope, love, and courage to maintain faith in humanity's goodness.

The timing of this novel couldn't be more relevant. From climate change to governmental struggles, "The Effort" attacks problems to their core and reveals much-needed solutions within the span of a single novel. Every detail feels deeply researched, science and governmental diplomacy included. The fast pacing, vivid settings, and diverse characters all make the story immersive and exciting.

I am so grateful to have received a copy of "The Effort" in advance, and I can't wait for others to have a chance to read it soon!
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I reviewed this on GoodReads and on my blog. Details provided directly to the publisher in the next round of this review process.
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The Effort by Claire Holroyde is a highly recommended apocalyptic tale that starts with an end-of-the-world-by comet scenario and morphs to a novel about human nature.

When the 8 km dark comet UD3 was spotted on a trajectory to hit the Earth one of the first people recruited by the U.N. to help with what will be called The Effort is Benjamin Schwartz, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. He and his girlfriend Amy Kowalski are flown to French Guiana in South American to help assemble a team of experts to neutralize the extinction threat. One of the brilliant scientists assisting is China’s Dr. Zhen Liu. The gifted and intelligent UN interpreter Love Mwangi also joins The Effort. The large team is fighting against time and sleep deprivation in order to try and prevent an extinction level event.

At the same time a Coast Guard polar ice breaker is traveling is traveling north right as the comet is discovered. On board is a group of marine biologists, including  Maya Gutiérrez, who are collecting scientific data.. There are two additional passengers invited on the mission. Jack Campbell is a photographer for National Geographic who is tasked with capturing the beauty of the Arctic before it disappears and Gustavo Wayãpi, a Nobel Laureate poet from Brazil who is expected to write about the experience.

The quality of the writing in The Effort is excellent and the novel is well pace to create an increasing sense of tension and danger as the novel progresses. While the pull to read the novel is the end-of-the-world comet, the overwhelming themes become less disaster scenario and more focused on the panic and subsequent breakdown of civilization, as well as the failings of human nature and morality. The novel alternates between following the scientists of The Effort in French Guiana, the other notable main characters, and a myriad of other minor characters. Naturally, the character development was slightly lacking simply because of the sheer number of characters and the limited pages. The Effort almost needed another hundred plus pages to fully develop the characters and follow all their story arcs to the end. Thankfully we do get to follow several characters into the future, but, alas, not all of them which I would have preferred. 

Everyone loves a good disaster novel and The Effort fits the bill. There were a few little niggling details that detracted from an otherwise excellent novel. Holroyde didn't stop herself from including little details, personal opinions, and comments in the narrative that point to the novel being penned in 2018-19. It's always better to leave very current political controversies out of a novel in order to give it some longevity, especially in light of a subsequent pandemic hitting before publication. I have enjoyed many apocalyptic novels over the years and most of them I could easily reread and note that only technological advancements date them to being penned years or decades earlier. (My review copy was downloaded at the beginning of June.) There were also a few characters that we didn't get some closure on and the focus of the narrative sort of switched mid-novel and became more social commentary. But, these were little qualms that most people will easily overlook.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grand Central Publishing
After publication the review will be posted on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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A smart, authentic tale about humanity, friendship, and survival, THE EFFORT offers a unique and unexpected take on apocalyptic fiction that will stay with me for years to come. 

I fell in love with every one of the characters, each alluring and relatable in their own way. The diverse locations and circumstances of each perspective give the reader a sweeping yet intimate look at the collapse of society as seen first-hand from those living it. 

THE EFFORT takes a hard look at issues of internationality, corruption, climate change, rural-urban interdependence, morality, interpersonal relationships, and so much more. The story takes routes I didn’t expect, and the surprises continue through to the very end, making this a page-turner you’ll want to clear your schedule for.

In short, I absolutely loved this beautifully dark, realistic look at how society might cope with an imminent extinction-level event. Highly recommend!

Thank you to the author and Grand Central Publishing for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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The gorgeous cover on this one snagged my attention right away. Basic summary: a comet is on a collision course with Earth, and a team of scientists, engineers, and other professionals assembles in order to redirect or destroy it. But this debut addresses much more than just The Effort, which is the code name given to the massive undertaking to save humanity. This is a big book, with a large number of characters providing insight into issues such as climate change, exploitation and genocide, and government corruption. Certain characters stand out more than others, but one of my favorite aspects of the novel is how people from a variety of cultures come to an understanding and respect of one another and become family.

Real talk, THE EFFORT got a whole lot darker than I thought it would. From the synopsis and the classic “rocket demo using mundane objects” scene near the beginning, I was expecting something more like THE MARTIAN where everyone pulls together to accomplish a humanity-saving objective. However, Holroyde gets deep into the brutal, selfish, and very utilitarian behavior that might result when every civilization on earth breaks down simultaneously. She also shows us several examples of kindness and connection, but frankly, I’m not sure she’s wrong to be pessimistic about human nature, at least of the majority. No spoilers, but a major theme of this book is how humanity can destroy itself just fine without any help from the cosmos. The book ends on a somewhat optimistic (or at least not completely despairing) note, but I’ll be thinking about it for some time (and updating my personal apocalypse plan). 

THE EFFORT is not an easy read, but it continues a great tradition of science fiction interrogating our current issues.
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Solid hard sci-fi near-future imagining of life in the eye of an extinction level comet event. The gritty reality of a failing social system and scientific effort of survival is buoyed by strong and complex characters and relationships. 

The book spools out like a film and grabs you with a fisted grasp. Joy, love, grief, pain, horror and hope all vie for attention as you plunge into a nightmare with these people. Holroyde weaves the narrative of people across the globe and across all levels of experience and position with a deft hand.

This is what sci-fi does at its best: expose humanity in all its grit and glory.

Thanks to the publisher and Net Galley for a free copy in exchange for this honest review.
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