I was given an early digital edition of The Annual Migration of Clouds from ECW Press in exchange for an honest review. This book will be officially released on September 28, 2021. The following response is spoiler-free.
I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into with this story. This novella, just shy of 200 pages, introduces a very strange world that honestly left me with so many questions. The story is somewhat post-apocalyptic, with a nearly desecrated human population fighting a weird, mind-altering parasitic fungi called Cad. Our main character, a teen girl named Reid, is at the center of it all when she gets a letter in the mail admitting her to a university thousands of kilometers away: an institution which may or may not exist.
This story is filled with pages and pages of beautiful prose. Reid is struggling with Cad diagnosis, she knows her mind is being warped by the parasite and her world is vastly different that it should be, vastly different from the world before everyone was filled with impending doom: “you feel it sometimes, rage filling you like an updraft of hot air from a fire, 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. And we don’t even know what it is.”
But Reids’ world (which is vaguely Canadian) isn’t exactly dystopian or apocalyptic. And perhaps this is because it’s written from Reids’ perspective, which we know is unreliable from the disease which afflicts her, but throughout the novella I kept finding myself struggling with how exactly this world exists.
The main plot is that Reid is admitted to a strange university, which her mother (who is also diseased and often lashes out at her daughter — “Who’s talking to me? Is it her? Or her sickness?”) doubts the very existence of, and Reid struggles as to whether or not she should go. The reader learns that books were regularly burned for heat, the disease kills all too many people, wild boars are hunted for food, and no one is exactly sure how the world used to be. It’s certainly speculative fiction in this regard, but I found this book surprisingly difficult to read, despite its short size, just due to the fact that I couldn’t visualize this world. If this university is real.
This book doesn’t exactly have a “big bad” like President Snow in The Hunger Games, so I find myself struggling to describe it as a dystopian. But it’s also hard to determine if this is post-apocalyptic, considering Reid has a relatively large friend group, something we don’t often see in the crumbles of society. And when characters need immediate medical attention, it’s never presented as a major struggle or plot twist: the doctor is always nearby. Perhaps most telling of the story’s timeline is that Reid name-drops COVID-19 in an early chapter as a thing of the past.
This isn’t a bad novel at all. But it does suffer from a problem which I find many stories under 300 pages suffer from: an incredible plot that just needs to be developed with a little stronger world. Overall, I just wish it was longer. This story is beautifully narrated, I just wish there was more of it to read!
is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto. When she isn't writing, she's reading and working on her bullet journal. You can read more of her work at ashaswann.com