Review: “How to Get Back to the Forest” by Sofia Samatar

2 of 5 stars.

Every Child at Camp! This governmental slogan lies at the heart of this tale’s dystopian system in which children are separated from their parents for good as young teens. [By the end of the tale, kids are siphoned away at 8.] The various classes as a whole are assigned careers upon graduation, with 3 out of 5 classes going directly to the military.

Tisha’s class will be assigned to food service. As narrator of the tale, Tisha relives experiences from her first year at camp and also her present life with Pete, whom she met at camp in a mixer. Camp kids are encouraged to forget their parents, replacing each parent with an inanimate object to serve as a Mother Figure and Father Figure for the rest of their lives.

Tisha mostly remembers Cee, whose Mother Figure book she is recording Camp stories in. Cee is the girl that told the other girls that they all had implanted metal bugs tracking them and altering their moods. Some called her crazy. Only Tisha saw Cee vomit her bug up and flush it away. Cee was taken away . . . .

Interesting teases emerge about the state of the dystopian system described. Other questions about the true purpose and verity of the bugs and how they work also arise. Unfortunately, this tale does not answer questions, it merely asks them and then hazily blurs out. A novella, or novel-length story set in this world might satisfy more fully.

“How to Get Back to the Forest” appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 edited by Rich Norton and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Lightspeed, March 2014.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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