Nature’s Confession

natures-confession

Nature’s Confession was written by J.L. Morin and first published in 2015. It is a science fiction novel (falling into the sub-genre of “cli-fi”), set in a futuristic and heavily-polluted Earth. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of Morin’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Planet Earth is dying. For years, the people who lived there have ignored renewable energy sources and instead plundered resources of fossil fuels. The Emperor of Earth and Ocean is keen that no one argues against him, and thus has turned schools into places were children are encouraged not to think for themselves, rewarding only those that conform to his capitalist philosophy and keep their mouths shut.

However, Boy finds that he is immune to their brainwashing mist and starts to question why his teachers refuse to answer his questions. Boy is a code writing genius and is soon contacted by a mysterious benefactor who wishes for him to design a programme that allows all who use it to upload ideas. The seas are poisoned and it’s not going to be long before the air becomes unbreathable. The stranger wants to give the people a platform that they can use to voice their ideas regarding how the environment can be saved.

Boy creates his program but quickly learns that his benefactor was not being entirely truthful. It is instead the spark that will allow machines to become self-aware, leading to the possibility of creating artificially intelligent androids. As the beloved benefactor of these robots, Boy and his family soon find themselves catapulted across the universe. When the Emperor sets his sights on destroying other worlds, only they can raise awareness of his crimes and fight back.

Before I begin, I’d like to note that I think Nature’s Confession does support a truly important cause. Its goal is to get teen readers thinking about issues stemming from climate change, habitat destruction and overuse of fossil fuels, as well as the impact that the technologically advanced Western cultures have on people that they view as being primitive. These are important issues that everyone should talk more about as they impact all of us, as well as the future health and safety of our children and planet. Yet, unfortunately, this novel does not approach this difficult subject in an especially memorable or effective manner.

Morin’s argument is preachy and entirely one-sided. The main problem that climate change advocates face in modern society is that a shocking number of people just won’t accept that it is a problem. It’s not a lack of caring, but more a lack of understanding. Within Nature’s Confession the Emperor is shown as not only being fully aware of the damage he’s doing, he’s actually vocal about it. He gleefully voices his intent to destroy planet after planet in name of profit, even though he’s aware that safer methods of power generation exist. He even mocks the futility of heroes in trying to stop him. An unrealistically shallow villain like this is not a great tool for an author to use to illustrate a message about the dangers of abusing fossil fuels. He’s more Captain Planet villain than actual oil tycoon.

The story itself is also very difficult to read. Its structure is confusingly fast paced, skimming over important plot points and picking up and dropping threads seemingly at random. If you’re expecting an engrossing read, you will be sorely disappointed. Nature’s Confession reads more like a parable – a brief overview of Boy’s coming of age. Despite the novel’s relatively low page count, it packs in enough ideas to fuel at least a trilogy and spends no time developing any of them.

While the story does grow a little more cohesive in its final third, until then it struggles to find a focal point. While the early chapters focus on Boy and the self-aware computer programme, this is forgotten as the story flips to follow his sister Kenza at eHavard, then his father as he is enlisted to travel back in time to save the earth, then his mother as she tries to settle into life as a cheesemaker on a far-off planet (yes, seriously). None of these plot threads are carried through to fruition as Morin seems to get bored of each and then flip to the next without addressing the queries that she raises.

Why is Valentine accepted onto her scholarship in the first place and what gives her the initial idea to search for the timeon particle? Why does her android design resemble an anthropomorphic cat? What fuels these androids, given that the novel is strictly anti fossil fuel? Why did Any not rescue Kenza along with the rest of her family, and what chain of time travel causality leads to Boy’s family being rescued in the first place? If multiple worlds exist (as indicated by the multiple Porters), how will tampering with the past change the future? Won’t it just create another reality and prevent them from return to their respective presents? These are but some of the questions that I had reading this novel and I don’t think that any of them were effectively explained. It was almost as though the story was the author’s stream of consciousness. It really needed tighter editing to bring clarity and focus to her myriad of ideas.

This was not helped by the confusing way in which the narrative was presented. Perspectives and narrators seemed to flip entirely at random and without bothering to even notify the reader. I frequently found that I had no idea of who was supposed to be speaking. This became even more baffling later on when Cuppy (a psychic alien dog) randomly joined the family and started to narrate his attempts to manipulate the protagonists to fulfil their destinies. Again, where Cuppy came from and why he’s doing this are never actually explained.

Morin also had a bad habit of naming characters before they were introduced to the reader, which took me by surprise on a couple of occasions as characters suddenly “appeared” in scenes and I had no idea who they were. It took me quite a while to suss out that “Eleanor” and “Mom” were the same character, as well as the fact that the cat person’s name actually was “Any” (I’d previously just assumed that “Any Gynoid” was just a sweeping statement).

Finally, as you may have guessed, the characterisation in the novel is virtually non-existence. Although the book is advertised as being a romance, Boy and Valentine don’t get together until 84% of the way through the Kindle version. Up until this moment, she largely seemed to hate him. Yet after they kiss, she gets pregnant and has a baby within a matter of pages. I’ve spoken about fast romances in young adult fiction before, but this really takes the biscuit.

Other characters in the novel are just picked up and dropped on a whim, so I never had chance to start caring about them. Kenza briefly seems important in the early chapters but she bows out of the story following her rescue. Mom has a brief stint of development after Porter walks out on her, yet despite being described as a man hater she still welcomes him back into her life without much fuss when he finally returns from his mission. Women in general do not fare well in Morin’s future. Despite initially seeming as well educated and influential as the male characters, they generally sink into roles as housewives and mothers. Even Mom’s seat in Starliament is only offered to her because her ex-husband is viewed as being the hero of Earth.

I’m starting to ramble so I guess I’ll wrap up. Nature’s Confession is an ambitious novel but, for me, it ultimately failed. It’s poorly constructed and contains too many ideas and undeveloped characters. This is definitely not a book that I’d recommend.

Nature’s Confession can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook from Amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. alliesumner
    Nov 18, 2016 @ 22:26:00

    Great review!

    Reply

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