REVIEW: “Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics” by Jess Barber and Sara Saab

Review of Jess Barber and Sara Saab, “Pan-Humanism: Hope and Pragmatics”, Clarkesworld 132: Read online. Reviewed by Kerstin Hall.

Two people strive to restore a broken Earth, even as their efforts push them apart. Amir and Mani are devoted to renewing toxic cities and waterless countries, and they are devoted to each other. Circumstances encourage them to choose between their purpose and their feelings, in a world which demands pragmaticism.

This story is gentle and romantic and elegant. The characters are nuanced. They grow together and apart and together again, and their relationship serves as both a source of conflict and of comfort.

This story wasn’t necessarily my favourite of the September selection, purely based on personal preference. There was much that I found poignant, and even more that I found clever, but I never felt fully invested. For me, the plot was too dispersed. My impression was of a series of vignettes.

The reader is offered snippets of a post apocalyptic life. We flit from one small triumph to another and nothing ever goes catastrophically wrong. There are small disappointments, but the trajectory of hope is always upwards.

Maybe this one was simply too melancholy for me, even in its ultimate optimism.