I'm currently behind on reviews, so don't be surprised if the recent reviews are a bit sparse.

The Past Is Red

Cover of The Past Is Red.

Cat Valente is somebody who I like for the odd blog post, but apparently just not for her books. This one was unpleasant to read to the point that I kept actively looking for redeeming features. Didn’t help that the protagonist-narrator was incredibly exhausting. I don’t want to make a clever joke about the book belonging in the Garbagetown it portrays here – it’s not that bad! – I just didn’t get why it had to be written.

Plot summary

Beware: full spoilers! Also probably incomplete and possibly incomprehensible.

Post-apocalypse, Tetley lives in Garbagetown, the swimming dump the size of Texas (?!) where some people on Earth have survived. She was born 50 years post-collapse. She is a neglected child, her twin brother favoured. When she goes to get her name, she meets a cute boy, Goodbye Moon, in Electric City (the only vaguely pre-collapse area) who shows her tapes and music and stuff.

When she’s 17, a wandering troupe, Brighton Pier, docks. They tell tall tales of dry land, and Garbagetown decides to search it out. Tetley figures out it’s a lie and stops them by bombing the engines. Everybody hates her. She’s beaten and abused by everybody.

Five years later (the story is told from five more years after that), the King of Garbagetown (Goodbye Moon, who has figured out Pill Hill and antidepressants and keeps his followers happily drugged, comes to marry her. Meanwhile, she has found a pre-collapse AI thingy. He sails off with her and shows her a tiny bit of dry land he found. They find out that her AI can contact people, who are on Mars. When they notice her communicating, they shut down the satellites. Goodbye Moon dies on the way back from an infection that he could have healed with his drugs. Tetley sticks around on the boat where people can’t abuse her. She keeps talking in secret with the girl on Mars, and with her AI, and tells nobody about Mars. The end.


It all happened a long time ago and I can’t fix it. Lives have apocalypses, too.