Try to imagine a world where global warming has gotten so bad that planet earth is almost uninhabitable below the US-Canadian border, with high temperatures exceeding 135 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Fortunately, the polar region has mild weather and people live either on houseboats or on now-liveable Arctic islands like Vostok and Svalbard. This is the Sea Dominion. It’s also rather nice in Canada, now known as the Land Dominion. But below the Land D is the Hotzone, where daily life is a struggle to evade the intense heat. Some Hotzone residents try to escape over the Berlin-wall like barrier that separates the Hotzone from Land D.
Is this world a utopia or a dystopia? It depends on whom you ask. Varik, son and heir to a polar floating agar farm, has it pretty good, considering agar is a main source of food and other products for both dominions. Marisa Barone, daughter of a real estate developer, also has it pretty good.
But if you live in the Hotzone, it’s a tough life. Daytime temperatures can kill you. Hotzone residents — the few that haven’t died — stay indoors and only come out at night, when the children forage for beetles with long sticks, and insect meat loaf is the result. It’s alleged to be delicious once you get used to the idea. Hotzone residents who try to escape to the North had earned the derogatory nickname “refs,” not only for themselves but for all Hotzone residents.
That’s the setup. Marisa has seen how poorly paid her father’s Hotzone origin workers are, and her cause is to get Varik and others like him to share their agrotechnology with the Hotzone people, the “refs” he despises. They begin as enemies, and how they become friends is one the most convincing and satisfying features of this tightly written, skillfully paced Young Adult sci-fi novel.
The unlikely pair bond while on a seemingly quixotic mission to find a living specimen of an experimental plant called Fireseed which can grow in any environment and cross-pollinated with practically anything. Do they find it? I don’t put spoilers in my reviews, but if your curiosity has been provoked, prepare yourself for a fast paced adventure through a bizarre and forbidding but fascinating science-fictional environment.
I hereby award this book five stars.