The record of the human race in predicting the future is abysmal. Science fiction writers, futurists, and other self-appointed pundits typically manage to get more wrong than right. Still, the exercise of looking ahead can be thought-provoking. And that’s the best word that comes to mind to describe a recent novel by H. C. H. Ritz set in the mid-21st century. She portrays a plausible near future, one you won’t be happy to see.
The Robin Hood Thief by H. C. H. Ritz (2016) 292 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
She dreamed of being a philanthropist
The protagonist of The Robin Hood Thief is a woman in early middle age named Helen M. Dawson. When Helen “daydreamed, it was always about being a hero. Not the superhero kind, with a cape—that wasn’t the right sort of dream for a practical person like Helen—but the kind who had money. As soon as she learned the meaning of the word philanthropist, that was what she wanted to be when she grew up. To have the luxury of generosity.” But Helen is barely scraping by on the pittance she earns from her job as a fundraiser at a nonprofit. And when she learns that she has just 45 days to live, she realizes she will never be able to realize her dream. Unless she steals the money.
Enter the Robin Hood Thief.
A plausible, disturbing—and ultimately hopeful—view of the future
Hilary Ritz paints a picture of the near future that’s plausible, disturbing—and ultimately hopeful. At mid-century, rising seas have claimed much of coastal America. Millions of climate refugees from the south have swelled America’s population. Orlando, Florida, where Helen lives, now houses ten million people in a metropolis that sprawls the distance from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Poverty is severe and ever-present. A small number of ultra-wealthy people Helen calls “the Entitled” live cocooned in great luxury in gated mansions guarded by private armies. “Conservative” politicians have virtually destroyed the social safety net, leaving the health care system in a shambles. Jobs are scarce and pay little.
Historically, conditions such as these are regarded as pre-revolutionary. Perhaps Helen’s campaign to steal her way to philanthropy will trigger something. We can only read on . . .
For further reading
I’ve included Hilary Ritz on my list of Six new science fiction authors worth reading now.
For more good reading, check out:
- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus dozens of runners-up); and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
You might also check out Top 10 great popular novels reviewed on this site.
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