Travel Document 01: Wilders

Wilders

Book 1, Project Earth Series
Brenda Cooper
Genre: YA Solarpunk. Noblebright, environmental focus.

 Link To Book

The Dust Cover Copy

Coryn Williams has grown up in the megacity of Seacouver, where her every need is provided for—except satisfaction with her life. After her parents’ suicides, her sister Lou fled the city to work on a rewilding crew, restoring lands once driven to the brink of ecological disaster by humans to a more natural state. Finally of age, Coryn leaves the city with her companion robot to look for her sister.

But the outside world is not what she expects—it is rougher and more dangerous, and while some people help her, some resent the city and some covet her most precious resource: her companion robot. As Coryn struggles toward her sister, she uncovers a group of people with a sinister agenda that may endanger Seacouver.

When Coryn does find her sister, Lou has secrets she won’t share. Can Coryn and Lou learn to trust each other in order to discover the truth hidden behind the surface and to save both Seacouver and the rewilded lands?

The Deets

The Scene

Worldbuilding

I used to hear the phrase ‘even paradise has snakes’ as a child. This book explores that concept in rich and interesting detail.  The world is working towards utopia, but there are still plenty of snakes in the garden.

The exploration of ways we as a culture might heal our world before the environment becomes impossible for human survival really draws in readers of a scientific bent, and the unintended consequences on human society and human psyches are well-considered and plausible.  The future-city planning is impeccable. Anyone with an interest in environmental sci, city planning, wilderness survival and/or ag is going to have fun.

The Crowd

Characterization

One issue: At times Wilders gets so caught up in its world building that it forgets to tell the stories of characters, and they become a bit flat. This is particularly true in the case of Coryn’s sister: she’s full of secrets, that’s the point. But Lou starts to read like a generic Tough Woman Adventurer and not a sister pretty fast. A few of the other characters fell into the same trap: Generic Strong Leader and Generic Extremist in particular.

I found Coryn endearing because I remember how it felt to be a dumb teen trying to be something more, but some may be turned off by her consistently bad decision-making skills. If there’s a mess, Coryn will step in it. If you see danger coming, assume Coryn is going to land smack in the middle. And you do see it coming. This makes it a great read for the younger set, but older readers may get a hum-drum sense by the 4th time a bad situation gets worse. Coryn’s utter focus on a handful of goals and her blindness to anything beyond them makes you want to give her a hug or shake her, one or the other. But hey, if you care enough to want to shake a character, the writer did their job. And this is definitely a story for kids trying to figure out their lives: in Coryn’s desperate urge to grow up and Be Something, they’ll see themselves. This is a good book for inspiring the tween set to stand up today. It will remind them to fight for tomorrow.

The Moves

Plot

This story is a great roller coaster ride, but it takes one too many turns. The first third is gripping: emotional trauma and A Big Decision. Personal agency is going on all cylinders. The second third is nicely threatening, with plenty of danger and a nice amount of suspense. Around the final third of the story we have so many factions with so many agendas that you start to get a bit bewildered. I listen to my reading list most of the time, and I found myself saying ‘wait, what?’ and rewinding several times. This has the benefit of landing you with Coryn in the position of ‘put my head down and survive, the rest isn’t in my control’, but it’s a touch annoying as well.

That said, I did enjoy the entire book, and the ending was solid and satisfying, with just enough danger to make me pick up the next.

 

The Lingo

Writing style

It’s a little young. Consider this sentence: “Halfway through the next day, they stopped at the top of a hill festooned with fast-spinning white windmills and peered through a face full of wind to more hills….” Not terrible, but it could have been reworked, and that shows up fairly often. I would have liked to see a leaner, cleaner story.

The Vibe

Overall Rating

I handed it to two younger cousins. It’s the perfect book for young activists, for folk who want to look forward, and for folk looking to take a ride into the future on Saturday morning. A fast, adventurous read that mixes My Side Of The Mountain with Captain Planet in all the right ways. Grab a copy, you’ll have fun.