The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed

It is sometime in the future and the world as we know it is completely unrecognizable. People are living in pulled-together communities, using what they can find to get by. Unlike our own world, the community members have to work together to make sure everything essential gets done each day, each hour, each minute. Which is one of the reasons Reid is finding it so hard to decide what to do. The choice she makes could mean the difference between life and death for someone, including herself.

If love does not pin you down, if love is not heavy enough to keep you in place, what on earth could be?

Reid has been offered a very rare opportunity to attend a University far from home; one they’ve all heard rumours of but no one from their community has ever gone. She imagines the possibility of learning amazing things there that she could bring back to help her community. Like the paper her acceptance letter was written on, made of spider silk, able to weave itself back together if it rips. Paper is rare now – no one dares to use trees for anything – “they are too young and too few, and therefore too precious, to kill for something as frivolous as paper.”

On the other hand, she would be leaving a gap that others would have to fill while she’s gone.

… there’s never an empty spot of soil. There’s never an empty shelf in a greenhouse. And there’s never anyone to spare. Not anyone who can lift so much as a teaspoon, a single canola seed… Labour has been allocated down to the minute for months because what we support is a community that includes people who might be unable to work at any moment.

If they are real, are these people I want to go towards, in preference over my own people? The ones who abandoned us? Their descendants?

And there’s her mother who, like Reid, is infected with Cad, an inherited fungal disease that eventually kills you. She’s worried about leaving her mother alone to cope.

The thing is of me, does not belong to me. Is its own thing. Speaks its own tongue. A semi-sapient fungus scribbling across my skin and the skin of my ancestors in crayon colours, turquoise, viridian, cerulean, pine. I imagine it listening now, keenly, sipping my happiness.

The idea of Cad is fascinating. It lives in the body and is able to control the mind, which allows it to prevent its host from making decisions that might be too dangerous; things that will put the host, and, in turn, the fungus at risk. Knowing this, one could reason that Cad may also prevent a person from making progress, moving ahead. Because making progress often involves risk. One could suggest that many of us in the present are ‘infected’ by something similar that prevents us from moving toward change – the kind of change we need to prevent the future portrayed in this book.

This community does not know what happened in the world to bring them to where they are now. Another intriguing idea; what would it be like to know very little about the past, be angry at it, yet still long for it?

As we mine out the landfills (at least they left us a lot of plastic to reuse; that was thoughtful) and burrow into basements and archives seeking the books that our ancestors did not burn to survive the winters, you felt it sometimes, rage filling you like an updraft of hot air from a fire, lifting you from the shoulders or blowing through you like a tornado–rage that we missed it, missed it all, and rage at those who got to have it in the specific way that took it from us.

Reading about it all in novels: smart phones, internet, satellites, the ISS, movies, cruises, road trips, texting, trains, flying in planes over countries with the cloud shadows moving dark and wet over the land like ink; but also all the things they wrote in there that they did not mean to write about because they were too normal, letting us look at them from the corner of their eyes. Restaurants. Rice. Dumpsters. Condoms. Bosons. Irrigation. Pensions. Bananas. I think: My f*cking Christ, imagine a world where you could fear flying.

This beautifully-written novella-length book takes hold of the imagination and leaves you with lots to think about.

Further Reading:

Quill & Quire:Throughout the novella, Mohamed’s sharply honed storytelling evokes expansive questions, particularly around inheritance: the hereditary nature of Reid’s illness, her presumed responsibility to her mother and community, and the legacy of a climate-decimated Earth.”

Publisher’s Weekly:It’s an impressive feat of worldbuilding made stronger by the sensitive, nuanced characters and urgent questions about what people owe to each other. This packs a punch.”

Check out Premee Mohamed’s website – although she is new to me, this is not her first book.

Thank you to ECW Press for sending me a copy of this book!

21 thoughts on “The Annual Migration of Clouds by Premee Mohamed

  1. wadholloway says:

    The new wave of dystopian fiction (SF by its new name) is going to some wonderful places, as is obviously the case here. It’s actually on old problem in a new frame – can a rural community afford to lose its most promising youngster(s) to go away for education?

    Successful diseases do find ways to protect themselves – well actually a disease is successful because it finds ways to protect itself – but putting it in this SF-y way makes us think about that.

    • Naomi says:

      That’s true! Not usually in such a way, though, that it seems as though your disease has a consciousness.
      That’s one of the things SF is good at – putting a new spin on old questions. And it works my brain in a different way!

    • Naomi says:

      Me too! I’d love to read more literature that explores that idea, but I don’t often see it described in blurbs. Hopefully I’ll stumble it across it again sometime. 🙂

  2. buriedinprint says:

    I just “discovered” her this year as well! Did she just get a new publicist or something? Heheh She does have interesting ideas and I’m curious how this short one would read (the one I read was about 400 pages, Beneath the Rising).

    • Naomi says:

      A lot of the goodreads reviews I looked at said the only thing wrong with this one is that they wanted more. Which is not a bad thing. And the way she left it certainly leaves it open for more if she chooses to revisit it. 400 pages is a lot longer! Did you find it the right length or was it too long?

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