This third work I’ve read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia confirms that she’s an extremely versatile author: after the violent world of vampires shown in Certain Dark Things, and the frivolously vicious society of The Beautiful Ones, with this novella we explore Mexico in the near future, a future where mankind has established colonies on Mars while on Earth entire areas suffer from a failing economy, their inhabitants struggling in a hand-to-mouth existence that seems to offer little hope and even less means of escape.
Amelia is a prime example of this world: once a promising student winning a scholarship that might have launched her into an academic career, she was forced to abandon the university to tend to her ailing mother, so she now finds herself with no meaningful job credentials and is forced to work for an agency that offers friends for hire. The only escape she can envision is through her old dream of one day going to Mars, starting over in a world that looks new and promising despite its barrenness and hardships. But to get to Mars she needs money, and in the present circumstances there is little chance that she might hoard enough to fulfill her dream…
Prime Meridian is not what you might call a ‘proper’ science fiction story: there are no alien worlds to explore or extraordinary situations to face, but rather it’s a reflection on the all too possible course of development for our world, for the way in which certain social trends are going to evolve, and their consequences on individuals. What Moreno-Garcia accomplishes here, seemingly without effort, is to depict the lack of drive that could affect a society where opportunities are scarce and the dichotomy between the haves and haves-not has become an unsurmountable chasm, and quiet despair a way of life.
You can feel the latter quite clearly in Amelia’s day-to-day activities, her constant battle with too little money and too many demands on her time and energy. Still, it’s the dream of Mars – the only true element of science fiction here – that keeps her going, interspersed as it is with the recollections of a former B-movie actress who is one of Amelia’s clients: the fake Mars of a movie that never saw the light because of funding problems, and that exists only in a faded poster that hints at an almost impossible promise, is the vision which seems to anchor the young woman to her goal despite the constant strife and the subdued resentment one can perceive under her listless exterior.
The picture painted by this story is quite a vivid one, the characters coming to life through a few, well-placed brush strokes that leave you with the definite impression of having seen a movie, rather than read a book. Once again, Silvia Moreno-Garcia shows her flexibility as a storyteller, and the promise that the subjects of her works will always be unexpected and intriguing.