3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Ecotopian World by Zachia Middlechild is set in 2065, after the USA broke up because the Western states seceded. Those states founded Ecotopia, a nation based on environmental awareness and the use of magic. What remains of the old USA got increasingly polluted, and the situation got much worse in 2045, after an incident at a nuclear power plant caused a radioactive leak that spread throughout the nation. The drop in the population's fertility convinced the Congress to vote a law that forced all girls' fertility to be checked when they're 13. All fertile girls have to become breeders, forced to give birth to 20 children, 2 from a husband they can select and the others from men selected by the authorities. An alternative is to steal the fertility vaccine they believe the Ecotopians have, but within the government someone decides to abduct fertile young people.
Zachia Middlechild has been an artist for all her life, but generally she works as a painter and a sculptor. This is her first novel, openly inspired to Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach, a novel with a strong environmental theme. The premises are the same, with the Western states that secede from the USA to build an ecological utopia. In Ecotopian World there's a fantasy flavor because magic is widely used in Ecotopia. The rediscovery of magic abilities went alongside the healing of their land. That included their reconnection with Leer, magic animals that can bond with humans. With magic came a rediscovered spirituality strongly connected to the land. Religious fundamentalism and bigotry are considered enemies of that type of spirituality, and among the causes of humanity's dark times.
There's a remarkable contrast between living in Ecotopia or in the USA. In Ecotopia, people are well because they live in a healthy environment where they can eat good food. In the USA, the environment is polluted, so people tend to be sick, with a fertility problem that's threatening the country's future. The response is very different as well: the Ecotopians decide to invite children from the USA to Summer Camps while many among the American authorities think that the Ecotopians have a vaccine against infertility and want to steal it.
Zachia Middlechild uses that contrast to build a story focused in particular on Christina Braggio and her brother George, two of the kids invited to one of Ecotopia's Summer Camps. Christina has just been registered as a breeder in the USA, and she's worried about her future. The story of these two kids is in my opinion one of the strongest parts of the novel because it offers a positive message. For Christina and George, spending time in a healthy environment enables them to develop abilities that were dormant in their polluted country. The greater awareness existing in Ecotopia also means that people work together to maintain their environment. In a period where dystopic stories that can have really dark tones seem predominant, I found this story refreshing with its message of hope for the future. This effect is even greater because it's built on the contrast with a country that fell into a dystopia.
My complaint about Ecotopian World is that sometimes the author omits information I found important. For example, even within the USA's government, there's only a minority of bad people, yet nothing gets done to improve their terrible environmental situation. Why is that? No answer is offered. I give the author the benefit of the doubt because she already announced a sequel.
The novel would also benefit from another round of editing, as there are several grammar and formatting errors. Most of them are not a distraction, and in some cases I noticed them only because I was paying attention. It contains no profanities and no sex, which makes it suitable for kids as well. However, someone might be disturbed by some bits about egg harvesting from girls. It's not specifically targeted to teenagers and young adults, but for its contents and the importance of young characters I found it very well suited for them.
In my opinion, Ecotopian World is a good novel with some little flaws, so a rating of 3 out of 4 stars seems fair to me. The main storyline has an ending, but a few subplots will be developed in the sequel. I recommend this novel to people who want to read a story of hope for our future.
View: on Bookshelves