The Lost Cause
By Cory Doctorow
- The Lost Cause
Author: Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Ad Astra
- ISBN: 9781250865939
- Published: November 2023
- Pages: 368
- Format reviewed: Hardback
- Review date: 28/11/2023
- Language: English
As a long-term science fiction fan, it sometimes feels like we are living the books that I grew up reading. Not the flying cars and cure for cancer stories, but the ones that warned about humankind’s tendency to destroy itself. It feels like only a matter of years until Gort rocks up to give us one last chance to save the planet. Cory Doctorow writes fiction that is trying to do something about it now, if nothing more than to compel the reader to think about the future. The Lost Cause is an ominous title, and it should be treated as such.
In the near future the climate crisis that we are starting to see today has well and truly bedded in with large parts of America being lost to rising water levels or out of control fires. This has led to an exodus of people, some onto flotillas out at sea and others to relative safe havens like Burbank. Brooks happens to already live in Burbank and is relatively well off having a roof over his head, but he must share with his grandfather, who has fundamentally different views on politics and the future. Who will win out? The old or the new?
I have been a fan of Doctorow ever since reading Little Brother, the youth fiction story that made you question authority. This theme has continued in most of the author’s work since and Cause is no exception and is perhaps the most on the nose yet. This is a book about divisive politics, about those on the right and left today, extrapolated into the future.
Brooks is someone we would consider on the left, a young idealist who believes in the best of people. His grandfather is a self-proclaimed MAGA and would consider themselves on the right. In a strange way they both want the same thing; safety, and survival, but Brooks is just more inclusive.
There is a lot of exposition in the story, Micheal Crichton levels, but on modern political and economic theorem. We meet separate groups that believe in; shared responsibility, libertarianism, the right to be free from government intervention and more. Doctorow uses the future of Brooks’ home as the way of exploring the different visions of the future. This microcosm is then reflected in the fate of Burbank and the United States as a whole.
There is a passion in Doctorow's writing that you cannot help but be swept away by, but it also feels disjointed in places. This is not a balanced novel and I do not think it was ever trying to be. It is unapologetically pro-left. There are moments when Brooks reflects that his MAGA Grandfather is not much different from him, but these are not explored fully.
The naivety in the book is in part due to the character of Brooks and their youthful age. Brooks is constantly learning and acting as a sponge of information for the reader, but it does make you worry about their decision making as they just do not have the whole facts. However, it is passion and necessity that drives Brooks. 19 is young, but it is an age where people have fought wars and, in this book, Brooks and their friends are in a battle to save as much of the planet as they can.
With its grim predictions of the near future, Lost Cause is not the most fun book that you will read, but it is thought provoking. For some people it will provoke thoughts of agreement and stir them to do more, other it will provoke anger and annoyance. If art can do either of these things, it is worthwhile. If you seek a book purely to sit back and relax to, then I would think about keeping this one to the side until you are ready to tackle what is within.
Written on 28th November 2023 by Sam Tyler .