In general, I’m not a big fan of novellas. I like a long story that I can really sink my teeth into. Too often, an author tries to do too much in a novella. They cram in world building, character development, a plot and a message, and none of it gets enough attention. I’ve read some novellas that spent so much time setting up the situation that it felt like the actual conflict got wrapped up in 30 seconds.
Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the rare example of a story that fits just right into the novella length.
Much of the success of this book is due to the author’s deft hand. Moreno-Garcia doesn’t spend a lot of time on exposition, yet she still manages to convey a sense of place and give us a three-dimensional main character. A few details about Mexico City conjure a complete image of the setting. Amelia’s personality and past are revealed as we get to know her better, showing themselves in how she reacts to people and situations, and in the relevant details of her past that she reflects on as they relate to her present situation.
Amelia is a character that many Millennial readers will be able to identify with. She had to drop out of school to care for a dying mother, and having lost her scholarship, she now has a worthless half-finished degree and no career prospects. She lives with a resentful sister and scrapes by on “side hustles.”
Her main source of income is “Friendrr”, an app that lets people hire friends. This also serves as an introduction for two of the secondary characters. One is Amelia’s main client, Lucia, a retired actress who loves to watch her old movies and work on her memoir. She doesn’t necessarily consider her past “the good old days”, however. She presents an unvarnished look at what it was like to be a B-Grade actress and work with difficult creatives. Honestly, I adored her. She started out seeming like a shallow throw-away character intended to establish what Amelia’s work was like, but she had a depth to her that I loved.
The other is an ex who finds her through the app, and serves as a source of conflict. Does Amelia want to be with him, does she just want the money, or does she want nothing to do with the whole situation?
Oh yes, and there’s Mars.
This may have sounded like literary fiction until now, but Mars is integral to the story. Although everything else about Amelia’s life feels like present or near-future, in this story we have colonies on Mars, and that’s where Amelia wants to be, more than anything.
Her ex used to share her dream of Mars.
And Lucia starred in a movie about Mars.
All of this together into a story about dreams and reality and film making.
In many ways, Prime Meridian feels like the prequel to the book you’d expect to read. So often, we’re given stories about colonists trying to make it on Mars. But this is about what happens before you get to the red planet, the struggle to achieve that dream.
Pros: Latina protagonist, a quick and satisfying read.
Cons: Not available in Kindle store.
Conclusion: Perfect for a short flight to your own adventure.
Prime Meridian will be available on July 10th 2018. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced review copy.
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