ECW Press, 2021
Reviewed by Christine Walker
Premee Mohamed’s The Annual Migration of Clouds is a speculative novella that foreshadows post-apocalyptic Alberta, a place where climate change has ravaged the province and a mysterious intergenerational parasite called Cadastrulamyces fungi (Cad for short) can control the host’s body and mind.
Cad is “semi-sapient… scribbling across my skin and the skin of my ancestors in crayon colours, turquoise, viridian, cerulean, pine.” The book cover features Cad as a vine-like being that takes over its host, controlling muscles and movements that force the body to do things it normally wouldn’t. Gradually, it also takes over the mind and controls cognitive functions.
Nineteen-year-old Reid lives in a defunct university campus-turned-village until she is accepted to the mysterious Howse University and must decide whether or not to leave her community and her ailing mother in hopes of a better future.
Despite the bleak outlook, Reid’s community survives each brutal winter to reach The Thaw in the spring, a time when people come together to assess the damage and prepare to cultivate food for the following year. Everyone helps plant, tend, and harvest the food.
When Reid has an opportunity to join a dangerous hunt, she jumps at the chance, given that food gathered during the mission doesn’t need to be shared with anyone but her mother, insurance her mother will have enough to carry her through Reid’s future absence. Reid’s relationship with her mother is strained by guilt, duty, fear of separate futures, and family obligation.
Fortunately, Yash and Maliah, two elderly relics of the past world, offer a counterpoint to Reid’s mother and are very supportive of Reid’s desire to go to university, even offering to work extra to ensure her mother is supported during Reid’s absence.
Mohamed uses these two characters to elaborate on the world before the climate crisis and during its decline. Yash and Maliah are “the oldest people living on campus — maybe the oldest in the city, even the country, who knows — so they were among the last to see movies, the last to have electricity.”
Mohamed’s description of the world is realistic without being overbearing or pessimistic. She says the climate crisis “was slow enough that for a long time it did not seem truly dire; on a geological scale it seemed that nothing was happening; till suddenly the feedback cycles tipped over, became too front-heavy to regulate themselves.” The slow degradation of society’s infrastructure caused by climate change is intended as a cautionary tale, to inspire us to take action to prevent the future The Annual Migration of Clouds predicts.
The perseverance of these characters is what makes The Annual Migration of Clouds a beautiful, optimistic take on speculative fiction that offers timely inspiration during this crucial fight against an earth at boiling point and battling a parasite of its own. Mohamed is an Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton, Alberta. She is the author of novels Beneath the Rising (finalist for Crawford Award, Aurora Award, British Fantasy Award, and Locus Award) and A Broken Darkness, and novellas These Lifeless Things and And What Can We Offer You Tonight. Her next novel, The Void Ascendant, is the final book in the Beneath the Rising trilogy and came out in March 2022.