Review of Linda McMullen, “Ambassador Berry”, Luna Station Quarterly 38 (2019): Read online. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman.
In our prosaic early 21st-century world, we already know that global warming is a thing, and as the world gets hotter, the water gets lesser, and that places like Africa are going to be the worst hit: We know this, and we know it’s going to happen soon. In McMullen’s story, it’s only thirty-odd years from now, and as Ambassador Berry recounts her activities in “what used to be the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou, now dubbed the U.S. Mission in the Western Sahel”, it feels more fact than fiction.
I liked that Ambassador Berry was a woman in her sixties; she would’ve been about my age, now. I like that her predecessor as Ambassador was also a woman. I laughed at the idea that they will still be using Fahrenheit in the 2050s, though, then again, Berry and her compatriots are American; maybe this isn’t so unrealistic. I liked all of these things, but I still felt like I never quite got what story was being told. Two questions I often find myself asking myself when reading a short story are, “Why this story?” — why tell this story instead of another one? — and, “Why this story now?” — why now instead of another time? I’m not sure I found an answer to the first one, which made any answer to the second one rather moot.