Rebecca Scherm’s Novel Offers a Disturbing Future After Climate Change
A metal ring glistens in the darkness between the Earth and the Moon. Back on Earth, storm cycles ravage the planet’s surface and fires devour the land. But seen from space, everything seems so small. The silence is absolute. It’s the surreal scene that Alex, a climatologist, witnesses as he drifts outside the Parallaxis I space station, his new home.
In Rebecca Scherm’s recently published science fiction novel, Alex and “The Pioneers”, a group of scientists tasked with creating sustainable sources of food and air, venture into space on a space expedition. two years. They are sent into space by Sensus, a technology monopoly responsible for creating Parallaxis I. Sensus promises each member of the science team a large stipend to conduct research on Parallaxis I and the assurance that one day their families will be able to join them in space. The problem? First, the Pioneers must build a livable home for the world’s billionaires who have paid a fortune to escape the dying earth on Parallaxis I. However, in space, they are greeted with a surprise: the space station n This is not what they expected and the Pioneers take on seemingly insurmountable tasks.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, the families of the Pioneers grapple with the harsh realities of the climate crisis and the unforgiving internet world. Mary Agnes, Alex’s high school daughter, witnesses an online crime at a school party and longs to join her father in space. Katherine and Rachel, the co-founding sisters of Sensus, oversee the operation on Parallaxis I since returning to Earth. Sensus also hires another scientist on Earth, Tess, to conduct a morally questionable study on the Pioneers through the phones they all carry. The novel follows several characters as they navigate the troubles of futuristic Earth.
“A house between earth and moon” is an ambitious novel. This book unsettled me because the future described by Scherm seems oddly realistic and plausible – while reading, I often wondered if this was where our world was headed. The story takes place in the not so distant future, in which most of the United States is plagued by terrible fires, storms, heat waves and floods. Climate refugees are rushing to the remaining livable states and countless are losing their lives. The scary part is that it’s not that hard to imagine. My mind immediately jumped to the fires that already occur every year in my home state of California (in the novel, California is already nearly unlivable, devastated by relentless hell). On the futuristic Earth of Scherm, heat waves are killing humans by the thousands in desert states, reminiscent of the ever-rising global temperatures. The end of the world is near in “A House Between the Earth and the Moon”, it seems, and the source of this impending doom is the same climate problems we already face today, only further.
Author Rebecca Scherm doesn’t stop there with her ominous depiction of Earth’s future. The novel also warns us of the dangers of increasing digitization. In my short life, I’ve seen technology advance at remarkable speed, from standard flip phones to iPhones, from bulky monitors to sleek MacBook Airs. Like many others of my generation, I can’t help but wonder where the future of technology is heading. “The House Between Earth and Moon” offers a grim response to these ruminations. In the novel, children as young as five have phones implanted in their ears, partially obscuring their vision with a screen. Teenagers like Mary Agnes navigate a tech-saturated upbringing, facing a largely digital social life and cyberbullying. With an implanted phone, it’s impossible to disconnect, and the few people who choose not to use the technology are seen as the outliers or hippies of society. Still, the ubiquitous presence of technology on futuristic Earth has its perks. Mary Agnes’ brother suffers from life-threatening allergies, and technology implanted in his body allows him to avoid dangerous situations by warning those around him of allergens. This is one of the strengths of the novel, nothing is settled.
“The House Between the Earth and the Moon” shines with its ability to make readers think and left me awestruck with its in-depth conception of Earth’s future. I’m a sucker for futuristic and sci-fi readings, so it pains me to say that in the end, I always felt like something was missing. What prevents the novel from being brilliant rather than just good? For all its excitement and suspense, “A House Between the Earth and the Moon” lacks character development. It makes some interesting observations about human behavior – especially in difficult circumstances – but paradoxically the characters in the novel felt two-dimensional. While I felt like I discovered more about humans as a whole, I barely learned about the characters in this novel. Even at the end, the main characters still seemed foreign to me. In this way, the novel may have been also ambitious. Scherm’s novel confidently tackled Earth’s problems but missed the mark on its characters.
That being said, “A House Between the Earth and the Moon” is well worth reading. It’s an inventive new sci-fi novel, filled with suspense and topical issues. The novel is full of moral gray areas – from its expanding technology to its expensive off-planet ventures to its portrayal of internet privacy. It will keep you on the edge of your seat and wondering, what would you do if the end of the world was near? Is a space escape the answer?
Daily Arts Editor-in-Chief Emma Doettling can be reached at [email protected].