Rebecca Scherm’s second novel, “A House Between Earth and the Moon,” follows residents of Parallaxis I, a luxury space station owned by tech conglomerate Sensus, designed for the ultra-wealthy as a means to escape the disastrous state of the earth.
In 2033, wildfires have engulfed half of the country, reducing entire cities to ash; “heat blocks” hang in the air, trap people, and cook them alive; tsunamis have drowned the coast in mud. The Son Sisters, Sensus’ creators, have hired a team of Pioneers (scientists and astronauts) to conduct environmental research and maintain the station with the promise that their families will come to live in space with them when it is finished.
Alex Welch-Peters has spent the last 20 years manipulating super algae in the hopes of purifying the earth’s air and reversing the damage “of his species.” Hired by Sensus to continue his research on Parallaxis I, Alex leaves Michigan as well as his family—estranged wife, Meg, daughter, Mary Agnes and son, Shane—with the hope that he will save the world.
On Earth, Tess, a social algorithm researcher, is hired to work on Views, a project by Sensus that hopes to predict and manipulate human behavior. She becomes attached to her unknowing subjects, the Pioneers, living vicariously through them as she ignores her own family and life. Katherine Son—the mastermind behind Sensus—assigns Tess to secretly watch her sister, Rachel Son, the face and voice of the company. As the state of the earth reaches a breaking point, Katherine sends Rachel up to Parallaxis I with a mission: sell it to their investors or do not come back down.
“A House Between Earth and the Moon” is an ambitious book. Scherm not only tackles climate change and big tech but also cyberbullying, privatization, space tourism, and surveillance. Despite the focus on the climate crisis, the heart of this book is about privacy; in the future, the supreme court rules that privacy is a “commodity, and therefore, not a right,” leaving citizens in the hands of big tech companies. Scherm imagines a chilling reality of people knowing everything about you with instantaneous access, as only the rich can afford to “privatize” themselves.
It is also only the rich who can afford to save themselves from the devastation of the earth; tens of thousands of people die every day from everyday world disasters they can not flee from. Although it is set in the future, this is an all too real reality for today’s world.
I was hesitant to read this at first because of the daunting “science stuff,” however, Scherm’s writing is accessible and the structure of the novel itself was precise. Even with the large cast of characters, everyone felt developed enough that I maintained an interest in them until the end. The ending left much to be desired, though, as there were a few loose threads that did not get resolved.
“A House Between Earth and the Moon” by Rebecca Scherm is a disturbing look at what our future holds for us if we do not take action now. I would recommend this novel and give it a 3 out of 5 stars.