The City Where We Once Lived

The City Where We Once Lived by Eric Barnes

In the abandoned North End of a once thriving city, the narrator makes his home in an apartment high up in an empty hotel. The few people who didn't move when climate change and urban decay sent most looking for a better life in the more prosperous South End, live quietly, satisfied that for now they still have water, electricity, and a little food. 

Nothing grows in the North End - all that was green is dry and brown - and rising water levels are swallowing more of it every week. The area, mostly empty, is no longer served by fire or police departments because the city considers it not worth any of its resources. People still come, some only to cause trouble, but some to escape their troubled lives elsewhere. All of this the narrator records in his notebook as he watches the deterioration continue around him. After a violent storm causes severe damage to both areas and people begin coming from the South End to find shelter, a decision has to be made: let those people in or send them away. 

This is one of the better dystopian stories I've read. It's a little less dramatic than some in that there's been no global nuclear disaster, no deadly disease to wipe out most of the planet, just the gradual but unmitigated effects of climate change. Infrastructure destroyed by brutal storms and rising water have forced people and businesses to abandon houses and office buildings, and to relocate. This is the story of one man who stayed behind. 

A few chapters in I realized that none of the characters had been given names. The narrator is known as The Writer, another man as The Minister, some were The Scavengers, others The Gardener, the Woman and the Boy, etc. I was uncomfortable with this at first, but in the end it works. I think I may have gotten to know them better without names. I felt so involved in their lives that when I wasn't reading, I missed them, and just writing this has given me the urge to read it again.

The writing is good and the plot and characters interesting, and even better, the story ends with hope, and there's not a lot of that going around right now.   


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