Book Review: Nostalgia is Heartless by Sarah Lahey

I received an Advance Readers Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Nostalgia is Heartless is available now.

The year is 2050. Quinn Buyers is a climate scientist with a hippy father and a missing mother. Earth is in danger of a massive solar storm, with a shady organization lurking behind the planet’s upheaval, and she’s seven months pregnant, in a long-distance relationship she’s not entirely sure about.

Observant blog readers may be thinking that this isn’t my usual bookish fare and they’d be absolutely right. When I was offered an ARC of Nostalgia is Heartless, the fact that I don’t read much science fiction was my first thought. I was intrigued, however, by the description of the book and that it seemed to be more relationship-based than simply science-based. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro-science but I don’t really care if my science fiction is based in reality or not because I don’t know enough to tell the difference.

There’s a lot going on in Nostalgia is Heartless; a lot of characters and a lot of plot lines and I did feel a bit bogged down in the middle. The blurb told me that Quinn’s adventures were going to take her to Antarctica and while this is true, that doesn’t occur until close to the end of the novel. We meet Quinn when she’s living with her dad, Matt, a survivalist. She’s unsure about her future and her relationship with Tig, the father of her child. Tig has his own secrets and for much of the story, Quinn and Tig’s goals and personalities seem at odds but Lahey does a decent job of showing the chemistry between them when they are together. Quinn ends up befriending two very unique teenagers and together they embark on further adventures as she decides to find out what’s really happening at the earth’s core and where her mother actually went. And what exactly is this fruit platter that Quinn ended up with?

There’s also a lot of other side plots that are going on and other characters that we are briefly introduced. There is political intrigue and other relationships and this, honestly, is where the book lost me for a while. Nostalgia is Heartless is part of a larger series so while the action within the novel works on its own some of those side plots and characters are left at loose ends. That didn’t personally bother me because I didn’t really care about them, but readers be warned.

As I said, I’m never particularly concerned with the accuracy of the science in science fiction so I can’t speak to that here. It felt realistic enough to me that it all made sense within the context of the story. Climate change is a central theme of the book and this felt realistic to me. Earth likely will change a lot in the next 30 years. It will be warmer, some places will be uninhabitable. Some people are already looking to other planets for a new home, solar flares are in the news as I write this review. Cryogenic sleep and cyborgs and some of the medical care Quinn has available to her seemed less realistic but again it worked within the novel.

Did this turn me into a science fiction reader? No. But it was a fun, escapist read and I can see it appealing to real science fiction readers.

17 thoughts on “Book Review: Nostalgia is Heartless by Sarah Lahey”

  1. Cryogenic sleep and climate change seem incompatible to me. Why wake up in the future when everything is destroyed? Or perhaps people are thinking the future might mean the collapse of society but also a regrowth of the planet (oddly, I’m picturing the end of the Pixar movie Wall-E).

    1. There’s one specific character who is in a cryogenic sleep and for her it seems like it’s more of a health choice but it wasn’t entirely clear to me. In the novel, there is one group who is more focused on abandoning earth and moving on to other planets and another group who is still hoping to save earth as parts of it are still liveable. Kind of like Elon Musk versus the rest of us.

    2. I saw a bookstore that was advertising something like “Buy books from people who want to sell books, not people who want to go to space” and I thought that was pretty good!

    1. I used to read a lot more sci-fi as a kid but haven’t kept up with it in recent years. This one works off certain issues (climate, viruses) that feel very pertinent and contemporary, while also adding plenty of futuristic touches.

    1. I can agree with that! I kind of had to turn off the part of my brain that thinks about the present world and just enjoy this as fiction or I probably would have found it a lot more stressful.

  2. I like classic sci-fi but rarely get on with modern stuff, partly because there’s far more emphasis on getting the science right. In older books, all they really aimed at was making it sound plausible within the context, so I’m intrigued that that’s what you felt about this one. It does sound as if there’s maybe too much going on in it though.

    1. Honestly, I just don’t know enough about science and how things work! Is cryogenic sleep something that’s close to being possible? Is gene editing realistically going to happen on unborn babies in the next few years? I have no clue. I had no trouble buying in to the world of this story but that may say more about me! Yes, there was too much going on, probably because it’s part of a series and I guess the author will expand certain characters later on but I could have edited down quite a bit.

  3. Oh my – sounds like a lot going on here. Climate change! Political intrigue! Missing parents! Relationship woes! I feel overwhelmed and I didn’t even read it LOL

    1. Haha, it is a lot! The primary plot is fairly focused, it’s more that every now and then a chapter would switch to an entirely different character, thereby alluding to a lot more going on in the world of the book. I assume these are plot lines that will be developed in the rest of the series but it was easy to kind of just breeze past them in my reading.

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