Book Reviews

Review: The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

Having never read anything by Valente, but wanting to, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But what ended up captivating me about The Past is Red is the world building! The premise is one of those fantastic world kernels that sparked so many daydreams while reading. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


The future is blue. Endless blue…except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.

Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time.

But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

The Past is Red tells the story of a world swallowed by water. In which they find mementos of times passed drifting by as life rafts. The ways that humanity is able to survive from ashes and remains, from literal trash. But our concept of life is, in some ways, irreparably changed, while motives like greed, manipulation, and love remain central to who we are. Where The Past is Red got me is in the world building. All these questions about how life as we know it changes.

The ways language is susceptible to change and (mis)use. How we make sense of families, loyalty, and community afloat. And then The Past is Red morphs into a story about hope. How intoxicating hope can be, how manipulating it can be. It seems to shimmer before our eyes like a mirage, beckoning from momentarily gilded hands. Showing us a glimpse of a future that could be ours.

The Past is Red is full of introspection, twisting secrets, and wonder. It’s a novella that has stuck with me days after finishing because of how thought provoking it is. How many ways my life would change and wondering in what ways it would stay the same. If these kinds of questions, especially considering climate change, interest you, then you have to read The Past is Red.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

Find The Past is Red on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite climate change SF?

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