Michelle Min Sterling’s debut novel, Camp Zero, imagines the world in the year 2050. Climate change has made much of the world uninhabitable, natural disasters are more prevalent and more dangerous, the wealthy are wealthier, the poor are still poor, and white men are still trying to colonize land belonging to indigenous people with the foolish notion that they can make it better by "civilizing" it. Sounds pretty bleak, right? It is, but there are glimmers of hope and beauty too. While some people in the future are still choosing money and power, others are choosing love and community.The story is told from three alternating perspectives: Rose, a second-generation Korean-American woman who is both a sex worker and a spy. Grant, a young white man with generational wealth and status trying to run away from both. And White Alice, a collective of female scientists at a radar station who are forming a new community. Each of them are struggling to survive, to leave the past behind, and to forge a better future for themselves. Camp Zero is the kind of dystopian novel that is both terrifying because of how plausible it is and incredibly important because it explores how we might change that future world. It also asks deep questions, like who will survive and what will it take? And will doing what it takes to survive just make us monsters in the end? Amidst the questions, one thing is clear – we must open our eyes. This story is a road sign to our blind spots, whether it be hope blinding us to reality, privilege blinding us to our own malice, or grief and fear blinding us to love. Camp Zero is a collection of deeply personal stories set in a world on the verge of collapse. If you’re hungry for the next piece of dystopian literature, Camp Zero will feed that craving. This book will swallow you whole and spit you back out again with a new perspective.
Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling, (List Price: 28, Atria Books, 9781668007563, April 2023)
Reviewed by Emily Lessig, The Violet Fox Bookshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia