Five or so years ago, I used to write. I’d vaguely planned something involving cryonics one hundred years into future Melbourne (named Batmania in honour of the city’s heritage). So cryonics has been an interest that has unfortunately barely shown up in the fiction I’ve read, so I was desperate to read Karen Healey’s When We Wake.
This is a novel with a social conscience (even though in the beginning, Tegan Oglietti only got interested in politics and the world because of a guy she fancied). On the steps of Melbourne’s Parliament House, the Prime Minister is making a speech when she’s shot at – only Tegan is hit instead. After being put into cryostasis by the military, she awakens one hundred years into the future. She’s the first successful revival, but why Tegan?
Life in the future is looking better, socially. Marriage equality and cultural diversity are the norm. Consideration for the environment has shaped everything from food, to living underground, to toilets. But far from utopia, Earth and the people on it are dying fast. Plans are being made for salvation, and Tegan is entangled.
Though she’s fond of the military (because of her father) and God, Tegan’s social conscience appeals to me. I’d go as far to say she’s one of my favourite heroines in fiction. (Not THE favourite – that honour goes to Zara White from Carrie Jones’ Need Pixies series.) She may cause accidental offence, but she puts in much more than a token effort to make amends. Though it puts her loved ones at risk, she tries to do what’s best for the world. Tegan’s mistakes make her relatable, and her passion for The Beatles is more meaningful than mere fangirlyness.
I haven’t read anything by Karen Healey before, but I’m glad to have started with the best. (Of course, now I’m reluctant to pick up her earlier novels because they can’t possibly be as awesome as this, but should free copies swing my way, I wouldn’t refuse them.) I got a lot out of When We Wake, and though it’s not perfect, there are still plenty of surprises. Mount Ossa!