Three Degrees and Gone
by J. Stewart Willis
Black Rose Writing

"Between the phone patch, the ear imp, the tube computer, the television wand, and the sensor goggles, there was no need for books."

The year is 2086, and Frank and his wife Dana and daughter Embrey all live in the self-contained “glass bubble,” which Frank’s employer Gibson Petroleum provides for all of its employees’ families. In fact, venturing outside the facility too often is highly discouraged, as all the needs of the families are (supposedly) met by the super-complex, and besides, it’s a dangerous world out there. In Frank and Dana’s Galveston Bay area in Texas, the waters have risen three feet since the turn of the last century. Unchecked climate catastrophe has run amok, and the consequences for daily life and survival are very real and very bleak at this fictionalized point in the near future. A good many Americans find themselves in the role of migrants, as heading north to Canada—both legally and illegally—is now a common course of action.

Simply put, much of the United States is either underwater or has been altered beyond repair and recognition, with extreme weather patterns now the norm, and garbage daily being blown by the rains and winds from one locale to another. Frank and his family are set, after some deliberation, to sneak their way into Canada, like so many others are doing, in search of a better life for their families. At first, we learn, Canada once welcomed the influx of citizens from its southern border, but as time progressed, the nation “began to feel the impact of overcrowding and the loss of its identity.” As such, the borders were closed, except in the case of proper points of entry where asylum could be sought, but even then, many were not able to penetrate north into Canada. “Canadian politicians,” writes Willis, “had veered to the right and threatened to expel immigrants.” Canadian politicians were pushing for the construction of a physical wall at the border with the USA in order to keep out the unwanted Americans.

Does this sound familiar? Willis’ work, though heavy on plot and human drama with the introduction of a respectable number of main characters in addition to Frank, Dana, and daughter, seems to make a statement about where Americans are in 2020 with the political controversy over a wall on the United State’s southern border to keep Mexican and South American immigrants at bay. The author’s point is interesting and creatively made. It also includes more than a touch of irony, as this is a story of a group of American citizens who pay the Canadian equivalent of a “coyote” to bring them safely and securely into Canada illegally. Willis’ novel, though a piece of fiction, serves as an interesting take on what life—and matters of survival—might be like some 65 years into the future in America and elsewhere vis-à-vis climate change that has gone unchecked. Mass migrations, even more extreme weather patterns than we experience presently, complete regions of the US submerged, and other catastrophic possible realities are played out through the lives of the group of main characters in this dystopian work. If nothing else, the fact that they all are joined in a quest to get to Canada for a better life says much. In this way, Willis’ book can be regarded as a statement about where United States citizens are currently regarding the mass polarization surrounding issues of immigration and national identity.

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