*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The World Gives Way
Author: Marissa Levien
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In fifty years, Myrra will be free. Until then, she’s a contract worker. Ever since she was five, her life and labor have belonged to the highest bidder on her contract–butchers, laundries, and now the powerful, secretive Carlyles. But when one night finds the Carlyles dead, Myrra is suddenly free a lot sooner than she anticipated–and at a cost she never could have imagined. Burdened with the Carlyles’ orphaned daughter and the terrible secret they died to escape, she runs. With time running out, Myrra must come face to face with the truth about her world–and embrace what’s left before it’s too late.
This is an apocalypse novel where the apocalypse doesn’t completely take centre stage. At the heart of this novel is the idea of human connection and relationship built in the most unlikely of scenarios. Myrra is witness to a double suicide and at the same time, she becomes aware that her world is in peril. She and her family before her were contract workers, forced to work for the highest bidder on the giant spaceship that is piloting them from what was Earth to the planet Telos–a two hundred year journey. When Myrra’s employers kill themselves, she is free albeit burdened with her employers young daughter. Their deaths are deemed suspicious and thus ensues a manhunt for Myrra that spans their world’s final days.
This is a REALLY quick and intense read. It actually reminds me a lot of Station Eleven, also a debut novel. There’s a lot to process and a lot to unpack. Levien is a master world builder. She’s created this minute microcosm of a world that is a marvellous feat of engineering. Whole cities and landscapes function within this stellar ship, with its own weather patterns and wildlife. Those with no education, Myrra included, have little understanding of how their world works, but they are also most often indentured to the servitude of those above them in the economic hierarchy. The world is beautiful and meant to last generations of people on the journey from Earth to Telos where they will build a new life. The reader sadly learns that their fate is never to make it.
Not only is the world beautiful, the writing is as well. Central to this book is another book: The World is Round by Gertrude Stein. Books are a rare commodity, everything being digital in this age. Paper, wood, art. They are relics of the past, yet their tangentiality brings reality and life to the people who do have access to them. Myrra carries Stein’s book with her and it means everything to her. In the vast expanse of the universe, items such as these are stark reminders of their own humanity. Items like these connect people, more so even at the end of the world.
Myrra has kept people away her whole life, but we watch her in her final days form true and meaningful connections. Likewise, Tobias, the security agent on Myrra’s case, is forced to confront his own lifetime of isolation to reach out and bond with others in those last days. It’s tragic irony that these two people who are similarly alone for their lives, find real meaning in life only hours before their eventual demise.
This book doesn’t lie. The world is ending and there is no escape, but true meaning is found in how the characters handle this crisis: where they find strength, where they fail, where they hold one another up or tear those around them down. At it’s heart, this is a study of human nature and calls into question who we are when we have nothing left. Humans, in the darkest of hours, still seek to hold onto hope, and still work to survive. Levien has captured this in her breakout piece. I hope you enjoy it!