by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
FADE IN — EXT. MARS SURFACE — DAY: SPACE EXPLORER, a young woman in white dress, now streaked red.
This is a good story to start off the new year, a time we attempt to shape our future with resolutions, to look forward to better things for ourselves and the world. To hope. At the same time we have to be realistic and accept that not all our dreams will be fulfilled, or at least not in the way we originally envisioned.
Amelia dreams of Mars. Sometimes it is the Mars of science, from books she has read or documetaries she has seen. Other people think of everyday minutia or have songs playing in their head, Amelia recounts details of Martian soil composition or weather conditions, recalls quotes from Carl Sagan, or imagines how Schiaparelli must have felt when he first saw the "canalis." Her goal has long been to emigrate to New Panyu, the largest of the Martian colonies. But Amelia lives in near-future Mexico City, in a stagnant economy, in an area of old, poorly maintained houses and apartment blocks, surrounded by newer high-rises. She is un-employed, a freelancer, taking menial temp jobs, occasionally resorting to loans from more affluent friends. Lately she has a consistent income from Friendrr, a rent-a-friend app. One of her frequent clients is a former movie starlet, and it is through that association that Amelia begins to dream of Mars in a more fantastical sense.
Lucia Madrigal had appeared in only three films, but then married rich. One of her films was science fiction. Conqueror Women of Mars had started out quite differently than the final result. Its director envisioned it to be a surrealistic, Jodorowsky-esque epic, with Martian exploration a metaphor for the Mexican Revolution. But budget constraints and constant bickering with the studio and screenwriter reduced it to a lame failure. Lucia and Amelia frequently rewatch the film during her Friendrr visits, and Amelia begins to view her life somewhat in parallel with the film's plot. Her future had not always been so bleak. She was a straight-A student all through school, and attended university under an academic scholarship, unlike her older sister, Marta, who became pregnant early and dropped out of high school, having two children quickly. Then Amelia's mother became ill, and she had to drop out of university to care for her, since her sister was too busy with her new family. After her mother's death, the newly divorced Marta returns to the family apartment, and Amelia is forced to share a bedroom with her oldest niece. A bright future crushed by reality.
The story works on many levels. It's written in third-person, but all from Amelia's perspective, with an intimacy and immediacy that it almost feels like first-person. Garcia has a remarkable talent for realistic dialogue, as well as visual descriptions of the cityscapes Amelia moves through, both the squalid block where she lives, contrasted with newer shops, galleries, and apartment buildings. Her rich ex-boyfriend comes back into her life, and one might think that is how Amelia will get back on track. Maybe his money and influence will enable her to get a good job, or readmission to university. When she visits his apartment she is taunted by the brightly lit "Visit Mars" sign on a nearby building. But as Lucia had envisioned her role in Conqueror Women of Mars, as the HEROINE rather than the ROMANTIC INTEREST reliant on THE HERO, so too does Amelia believe she can rely on no one but herself to bring her dreams to fruition. She was going to be SPACE EXPLORER, but then was side-tracked to DUTIFUL DAUGHTER. The script calls for her to wait for THE HERO, but can she regain her original objective on her own? If she does, she won't look back.
There are only two basic plots. A person goes on a journey, a stranger comes into town. This story features both.
FADE TO BLACK
Prime Meridian will not get a general release until July 10, but it is copyright 2017, and eligible for current award considerations. The author self-published with funds derived from an Indiegogo campaign, and supporters have already been rewarded with an e-book, and some (myself included) received a paperback copy in mid-December. It's only a novella, a quick read, but I recommend a slower rumination, and re-reading. I know I won't stop at just the two times I've read it so far, because I suspect there are more layers to be discovered. Silvia has already established herself as one of my current favorites, and I look forward to whatever she does in the future. Check below for my other reviews of her work.
My reviews of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's novels,
Signal to Noise (music and magical realism)
Certain Dark Things (vampire-noir mystery)
The Beautiful Ones (a novel of manners—with telkinesis!)
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