REVIEW: “Caught Root” by Julia K. Patt

Review of Julia K. Patt, “Caught Root”, in Glass and Gardens: Solar Punk Summers, edited by Sarena Ulibarri, (World Weaver Press, 2018): 1-7 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology).

What took my breath away from the very first paragraphs was the depth of hope in this story. The future that both Hillside and New-Ur occupy is quite a bit different from the present we are currently in, but true to the anthology’s self-description of “optimistic science fiction”, Dr. Orkney of Hillside and Dr. Khadir of New-Ur meet not as antagonists but “for an exchange of ideas”, in hopes that each settlement can benefit the other. Every single thing about how Orkney and Khadir meet, grow to trust each other, and forge a future together is hopeful, and reading this story made me happy.

There was one strange aspect about reading it, though. The story is narrated in the first-person, and I, somewhat surprisingly for my usual reading habits, defaulted to reading the narrator as being a woman. It wasn’t until the second page when Dr. Orkney’s given name is mentioned that I was jarred from this default; and even then, only when his name or some other explicit reference was made was I reminded that he was a man. On the one hand, it sort of felt like a trick might have been missed, that the story could only have been made stronger by the presence of a female scientist as the lead. On the other hand, without Ewan being who he was, the sweet romance that developed would not have been the same. I would like to complain about the fact that I couldn’t have both, but it’s churlish to expect authors to perform contradictions, so I will be satisfied with being contented with how the story was written.

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