Short Story Review: “Consolation” by John Kessel

3 of 5 stars.

Perennial political hot buttons topics, such as immigration, sovereignty, security and privacy, are turned on their heads in this speculative character piece set in a much altered North America that seems to have taken a page out of Europe’s playbook. The dissolution of the US followed the loss of Florida to sea change and Galveston to hurricanes. Texas went independent and the Sunbelt claims the mantle of Confederated Free America. New York and New England became Canadian provinces as did the Pacific coast states. While Alberta left Canada to merge with the former US mountain states. None of the newly reconfigured nations seem hip to immigration from the others.

Luckily, that is merely a backdrop to this tale driven by characters. Three vignettes follow different characters revealing the pulse of the new political climate. One works for Canada in the Boston area to investigate political dissidents and hackers. Another is a guilt-ridden activist that has to keep her head down, crossing the borders that she wants closed to keep ahead of the law. The third is an Alberta ex-pat that’s immigrated to New York, Canada. He considers himself above or beyond politics as his worry is immortality and paying for the treatments that’ll extend his life indefinitely.

The story is left oddly and yet intriguingly loose as the lives of the three characters are pulled together in unexpected ways.

This tale appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2016 edited by Rich Horton, which I received directly from Prime Books.

 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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