We Speak Through the Mountain by Premee Mohamed

In We Speak Through the Mountain, we get to revisit the world built in Mohamed’s previous book, The Annual Migration of Clouds, in which Reid lives in a pulled-together community in the future living off scraps left behind by a society that no longer exists. The need for everyone to work together is crucial for survival. Nineteen-year-old Reid has been given the opportunity to attend Howse University, a far-off place they’ve only heard rumours of.

We Speak Through the Mountain picks up right where the previous novel leaves us, Reid’s journey to Howse University, where she hopes to gain knowledge she can use to come back and help her community prosper.

Howse University is, in fact, a real place. But Reid begins to suspect there is more going on there than the instruction of students.

Howse University is very different from the place Reid comes from: resources are abundant and it’s highly technically advanced. Yet the university doesn’t use any of its advantages to help communities living in poverty. This causes Reid to get her back up right away as her sole purpose in coming here is to learn new things that will help her community thrive rather than survive. As she explores, she comes across voice-activated lights, “modular furniture that slides across the floor on invisible tracks”, “windows that turn opaque or clear at a touch”, and maps of the campus that are “displayed at regular intervals on the ubiquitous light-up wall screens as well as in Braille, relief, and audio recordings.”

Reid is also put-off by the isolation of each student from the others; the assumption being that students want to live and eat alone in their rooms. Reid asks for a roommate, which is highly unusual, and she encourages the other students to eat together in a common area rather than alone in their rooms. Her roommate, also an “out-of-towner”, is behind her all the way, both accustomed to “doing things together and not alone.”

The more time Reid spends at Howse, the more questions she has. For example, Howse lives determinedly in the present, and dislikes talking about the past. Why? And why does Howse not want to share their resources and technology with the outside world?  

In The Annual Migration of Clouds, we learn about a disease that is common in Reid’s village, and one that Reid herself carries around — it’s called Cad. It’s like a fungus that lives in your circulatory system and seems to have a mind of its own. Eventually, it kills you. Reid has been living with it all her life. But one of the first things the university does for her when she arrives is administer medication that renders the Cad inactive. It’s not a cure, but a very effective treatment. The only trouble is, it needs to be re-administered every four weeks to keep the Cad at bay.

“Always it has been in me, demon, guardian, malevolent spirit, watchdog. Pouring its poison into my veins. But now it’s just me and I am a stranger to myself.”

This treatment could help so many people — why does Howse keep it to themselves? Reid realizes that it is also a very good way to keep out-of-towners in Howse. If they leave, their Cad will come back.

Reid takes it upon herself to find answers to her questions that leads to an ending well-suited for a third book. One that I’m very much looking forward to.

“Don’t kill me. There is a whole world I need to change.”

Premee Mohamed is a Nebula-, World Fantasy–, and Aurora Award–winning Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton, Alberta. She is the author of the Beneath the Rising series of novels as well as several novellas, and her short fiction has appeared in many venues.

Publisher: ECW Press (June 18, 2024)
Paperback 5″ x 8″ | 152 pages
ISBN: 9781770417335

 -- Website

Naomi MacKinnon is a mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend, pet-lover, reader, walker, camper, and Nova Scotian. Naomi has contributed several guest reviews over the years to The Miramichi Reader. Her book review blog is Consumed By Ink.

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