The pandemic of the last few years was life changing for the entire world. As fiction is written attempting to deal with this period, Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go In The Dark should stand as a role model and aspirational work.
How High We Go In The Dark tells a long arc of human salvation, after the “Arctic Plague” was released due to climate catastrophe in 2030, through a series of vignettes. Each chapter follows a different protagonist and shows a different face to the suffering of the time, though characters throughout return in surprising ways). The sections also hold a strong theme of humanity’s goodness, love for neighbors, and our ability to make hope for the future a life saving reality.
Stem cell experimentation gives a pig the power of human speech, and allows a grieving scientist to finally say goodbye to his son. A robo-dog carries the last recording of a mother singing, and is the only connection a grieving father still has to his distant son. A singularity resting in a man’s head might hold the secret to space travel, and a cure to the plague. A forensic scientist studies a slowly dying and decaying patient, and shares music with him. A widowed painter and her granddaughter embark on a centuries-long space trip to find a new home for humanity. The seed of Earth is planted and nurtured. The characters feel so much like real people that I have mourned them.
This book terrified me, enchanted me, made me weep for joy and sob from grief. Most of all, How High We Go In The Dark filled me with love for the world we have and the hope that we can still save it. This is an absolute 2023 must-read.