Lunar Braceros (Calaca Press, 2009) is a science fiction novella set in a dystopian 22nd century in which class relations have taken a turn for the worse and where corporate greed is barely limited by the State. The United States is no longer united; after an east-west war some U.S. states joined several Mexican states to form a new political entity called Cali-Texas. An association of the top multinationals has formed the New Imperial Order and control just about everything, including governments.
The unemployed and homeless are rounded up in Reservations, where they are forced to work as cheap labor to pay for their upkeep unless they can get a job outside the reservation or have the smarts to go to college for an in-demand position. Earth has no more room for trash, and since humans depend increasingly on nuclear energy, corporations have decided to ship off some waste to Earth’s moon. They also expand the lunar mining business and begin establishing lunar colonies. The main character, Lydia, is a Reservation resident who joins the burgeoning resistance movement with her brother and gets sent to prison for her troubles. To get out early and send money to her family (thus freeing them from the Reservation) she signs up to use her computer skills as a lunar waste worker. While there, Lydia and her coworkers discover a horrifying truth that forces them to reevaluate their jobs and create a new resistance, this time on the moon.
While I found the concept very interesting and different, I wasn’t particularly fond of Lunar Bracero’s narrative style. It is contrived so different people jump in telling bits of the story and world history to a ten year old boy- often making it read like a lecture. I preferred the parts where it seemed more real-time, drawing you into the action. Also, because the story is set up so only the rebellion sympathizers are speaking, you get a very limited view of the world. The ones telling the story are the little boy’s family and friends, so the voices are biased, presenting themselves (the poor people) as inherently good, and the rich capitalists (if we see them at all) as evil or at best indifferent. Still, it is refreshing to see the point of view of the oppressed and their grassroots efforts at improving their situation when a lot of sci-fi tends to focus on solitary heroic figures or present a top-down approach. Another thing I liked was the mixture of cultures and a strong, smart, female presence.