Joan He’s 2021 The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a standalone science fiction novel.
Her mother dead, her father aloof and lost in his eco-savior work, neuro-atypical Kasey Mizuhara at least has her sister Celia … at least until Celia vanishes at sea. While others give Celia up as dead, Kasey is not so sure that she’s gone. The blunt prodigy decides to track down her missing sister.
The two sisters grew up in an advanced eco-city, one of eight that contain a quarter of humanity. Although constrained by the standards of the wasteful past — inhabitants are expected to minimize their impact on the environment — the cities offer the best hope of a sustainable culture. Small wonder that so many people would like to emigrate to an eco-city. Few qualify, thanks to a rating system that takes into account not just the applicants’ current behavior, but that of their ancestors.
Whereas Kasey prefers a highly structured environment, Celia embraced freedom, thus the escapades outside the city that led up to her disappearance. Nevertheless, Kasey stumbles across evidence suggesting that Celia is still somewhere with the eco-city. As it turns out, the clue provides false hope — Kasey tracks down Celia’s implant, not Celia — but it sets Kasey on the path to a better understanding of her sister and of the events leading up to her final exit from the city.
Celia’s fate reflects an unfortunate truth: despite efforts to reform human behavior, baseline humans are subject to their usual foibles. Despite the crises bearing down on the species, most humans are incapable of taking the long-term perspective needed to preserve the species. Kasey is an exception: she not only sees what must be done, she is able to live up to her ideals.
On an island somewhere: sentient being Cee has no clear idea who she is, or how she got to the island. Nevertheless, she is determined to escape, to find her sister (she is somehow sure she has a sister). To discover the purpose that shapes the world.
Somehow, most of the territories of the world have been relabelled with numbers.
I did not care for this. The author contrived the plot to end with a moral crisis, a crisis I found painfully contrived. Explaining why is a giant spoiler, so I am rot-13ing it. Don’t decode the following if you plan on reading the book (which I cannot recommend, but chacun à son goût).
[rot 13 for giant spoilers ] Prr vf n ebobg vzohrq jvgu fbzr bs Pryvn’f zrzbevrf. Fur unf orra qrfvtarq gb grfg gur raivebazrag n gubhfnaq lrnef gb frr vs vg’f npprcgnoyr sbe uhznaf. Vs vg vf, gura Prr vf gb jnxr Xnfrl sebz n gubhfnaq-lrne fyhzore. Prr jvyy gura or fuhg qbja (orpnhfr sbe fbzr ernfba gur crbcyr n gubhfnaq lrnef ntb vafvfgrq gung Prr ynfg bayl ybat rabhtu gb freir ure vagraqrq checbfr). Fb … qbrf Prr fnpevsvpr urefrys gb jnxr gur crefba jub jvyy gura jnxr uhznavgl, be qbrf fur fnir urefrys naq gb urpx jvgu uhznavgl? [/rot13]
The context for the above is that Kasey is (probably) somewhere on the autism spectrum, which gives her a significant disadvantage when it comes to theories of mind about the humans around her, but a considerable leg up on committing to those actions necessary to bring about the goals on which she has focused. The neurotypicals are sufficiently bad at this latter ability as to imperil the Earth’s ecosystems and kill off about a billion humans over the course of the novel1. Dealing with the people around her is therefore an exercise in frustration for Kasey.
But because the ethical trap at the centre of the plot seems contrived, I could not invest in the book. Ah, well.
1: The issue being that sure, a lot of people will agree to the Great Plan to Save Humanity, but enough won’t agree that implementation will be impossible until matters have become much worse and the ecosystem is utterly trashed.