The Offset – Calder Szewczak

Addictive stories are always a goodie in my book – and The Offset is certainly that. It has an extremely hooky concept, and asks some really interesting moral questions.

Many thanks to the lovely Caroline at Angry Robot for sending an ARC – all opinions are my own as usual.

RELEASE DATE: 14/09/2021


SUMMARY: In a dying world, the Offset ceremony has been introduced to counteract and discourage procreation. It is a rule that is simultaneously accepted, celebrated and abhorred. But in this world, survival demands sacrifice so for every birth, there must be a death.

Professor Jac Boltanski is leading Project Salix, a ground-breaking new mission to save the world by replanting radioactive Greenland with genetically-modified willow trees. But things aren’t working out and there are discrepancies in the data. Has someone intervened to sabotage her life’s work? In the meantime, her daughter Miri, an anti-natalist, has run away from home. Days before their Offset ceremony where one of her mothers must be sentenced to death, she is brought back against her will following a run-in with the law. Which parent will Miri pick to die: the one she loves, or the one she hates who is working to save the world? (from Angry Robot)

OPINIONS: So this has an incredibly compelling hook – on your eighteenth birthday, you have to choose one of your parents to die to offset your carbon dioxide output as the levels have risen to an unsustainable niveau. And Miri is about to turn eighteen. Her choice is more difficult than most – she has two mothers, and while she is quite clear on what her heart tells her to do, one of her mothers is a scientist working to save all of humanity – and in a crucial position to do so. Unfortunately, this is also the mother Miri’s never gotten along with. So, yeah. It’s an interesting story – though one led more by teen angst than I had expected, to be honest.

However, the concept was what I liked best about this book. I felt like especially the ending was ultimately very unsatisfying in terms of answering my questions, and much of the plot hinged on the characters not communicating or communicating very badly, and that is something that I tend to find very frustrating. There are some major moments where the story could have gone in a very different direction if the characters would have just TALKED TO EACH OTHER, and where it felt to me at least, it would have been natural to communicate better.

So while I was sucked into the world of The Offset, I also left it feeling very frustrated. This has left me feeling very ambivalent about it as a whole – it does bring up interesting questions, especially in terms of how humanity will persevere when our natural resources become finite, but also it feels like it didn’t really live up to the potential it had by letting its characters remain rather stereotypical archetypes and not moving out of the expected path. I don’t think I was ever truly surprised by the book, and I wish I was. Really ended up being a proper three star read for me.

If you’re intrigued, you can add The Offset to your Goodreads here, and order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

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