Nature’s Confession is an impressive sci-fi epic with a multi-versal scope. On the one hand, it’s a young adult romance featuring a mixed-race boy named “Boy” and his infatuation with Valentine, a red-haired beauty with a talent for particle physics. On the other, it’s a speculative story of a family falling on hard emotional times as the father takes up with a female android, which leads the mother to pursue a career in interplanetary politics. Much of the action happens on an earth sickened by pollution and climate change. There’s so much going on that it’ll take two or three reads to take it all in.
The author, J.L. Morin, is fearless. She’s unafraid to cram teen love, the origin of the universe, time travel, and an unrelenting satire of modern life into 277 pages, hanging the text with digressions and neologisms like Christmas tree ornaments. My personal favorite new word is “busywork,” referring to the purposeless drudgery forced upon those of us droning along in cubicles by organizations whose leaders may acknowledge us once a year, if we’re lucky. The tone is a combination of Alice in Wonderland (complete with rabbit hole) and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with a dash of Gulliver’s Travels.
Morin falls into a few traps. The antagonist is the usual caricature of big business, an obese, greedy man with a single-minded desire to exploit earth until its resources are exhausted. Though modern legal theory has distorted the purpose of corporations as ways to spread risk (They have rights similar to a human’s? Really?), they’re today’s go-to bugaboo, and cliche is just around the corner. Furthermore, Morin presents a pre-industrial non-human race of primates as living in a state of grace, only to be corrupted by civilization. It’s an inaccurate and old-fashioned trope, as any anthropologist will tell you.
Readers tired of the constant dystopian drumbeat of recent years will find respite in Nature’s Confession. Morin presents the danger of inaction on environmental degradation, including climate change, with only a modicum of preachiness, and her sense of humor will carry you through twists and turns that rival a wormhole’s. After some head-scratching, you might find yourself reading the novel again to see what you missed the first time.
Note: The author provided a free review copy of the novel.