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Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling
Dystopian

Camp Zero

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Michelle Min Sterling, on your first book!

by Michelle Min Sterling

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Quick take

Don’t be fooled by the floating cities and brain implants, this mysterious polar camp riven by inequality is no utopia.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Tech

    Tech world

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Immigration

    Immigration

Synopsis

In the far north of Canada sits Camp Zero, an American building project hiding many secrets.

Desperate to help her climate-displaced Korean immigrant mother, Rose agrees to travel to Camp Zero and spy on its architect in exchange for housing. She arrives at the same time as another newcomer, a college professor named Grant who is determined to flee his wealthy family’s dark legacy. Gradually, they realize that there is more to the architect than previously thought, and a disturbing mystery lurks beneath the surface of the camp. At the same time, rumors abound of an elite group of women soldiers living and working at a nearby Cold War-era climate research station. What are they doing there? And who is leading them?

An electrifying page-turner where nothing is as it seems, Camp Zero cleverly explores how the intersection of gender, class, and migration will impact who and what will survive in a warming world.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Camp Zero.
Camp Zero

CHAPTER ONE

ROSE

The Blooms receive their new names on the shortest day of the year. Six women in total. All strangers. They stand in an empty parking lot and wait to be checked in. Snow has scrubbed the landscape clean, capped the roof of the run-down mall that is one of the few buildings still standing on this frozen stretch of highway.

The Bloom last in line pauses to appreciate the freeze. It’s colder in the North than she expected, and the snow is more delicate. She takes off a glove and watches a flake vanish in the palm of her hand. She’s never seen snow before, and the snowflake feels refreshing on her skin, like a cool cloth pressed to a feverish forehead.

When she reaches the entrance to the mall, her new Madam introduces herself as Judith. She is nothing like the Bloom’s previous Madam, who drifted around in a linen caftan and calfskin sandals. Judith wears a fur-lined parka, black snow pants, and a pair of steel-toe boots, as if she was hired to demolish the dilapidated mall they’re standing in front of.

Judith reads off a clipboard. “Your name will be Rose.”

“Rose,” she repeats. A cloying, sentimental name. Like a grandmother who keeps apple pies in the deep-freeze. She had expected one of the pseudonyms shared among the “Asian Girls” in the Loop where she used to work: Jade, Mei, Lotus. It never mattered that the names were cliché, or that she is as white as she is Korean. Back in the Floating City, ethnicity was a ready-made brand.

Judith lowers her voice. “I wanted to let you girls choose your names for yourself. But Meyer likes things his way.”

“Is Meyer my client?” Rose asks, careful to sound casual.

“He doesn’t want us to use that word here, Rose. Think of him as your collaborator.” Judith opens the front door of the mall and Rose follows inside. “Welcome to the Millennium Mall.”

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Why I love it

Picture this: a near-future Earth ravaged by the climate crisis. Technological marvels abound, with “floating cities” that are protected from the worst of the environment and the “Flick”: a new technology that is implanted at birth, providing the population with virtual reality and internet access at every waking moment. It’s a setting that feels both revolutionary and disturbing, but eerily possible.

Removed from all this chaos is Camp Zero, a building project led by a peculiar architect in Canada’s far north. We experience life at Camp Zero through three expertly-crafted points of view. First is Rose, an escort who flees the safety of her city for the Canadian settlement after striking a deal to spy on the architect. Soon after arrives Grant, a college professor desperately trying to escape his past and the grip of his wealthy father. Our final perspective is that of White Alice, a mysterious group of female soldiers training nearby. As life in Camp Zero unfolds, we learn that the secrets and entanglements of the camp run deeper than could ever be imagined.

At its core, Camp Zero is about the importance of both solidarity and communal support in times of societal collapse. With flowing prose and a chillingly evocative atmosphere, Michelle Min Sterling creates the perfect blend of dystopia and mystery that will keep you reading late into the night.

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Member ratings (8,959)

  • Kyra B.

    Fredericksburg, VA

    It’s been forever since I read a great dystopian novel like this! It’s the first one I’ve read that reminded me of “Parable of the Sower” (in the best way possible). Can’t wait to see her next book!!!

  • Sarah E.

    Pueblo West, CO

    The multiple and compelling interwoven storylines had me turning the pages constantly! While the ending wasn’t as tidy as I would’ve liked, I’m crossing my fingers that it means a sequel is imminent!

  • Zuri B.

    Honolulu , HI

    Maybe cold is the gold of a rapidly warming future. And perhaps VR is a greater threat to humanity than AI… After all, what’s life without solid memories, real experiences and sustainable futures? 4/5

  • Elizabeth M.

    Blacksburg, VA

    I read this in less than 24 hours (despite many other things I should have been doing!). It’s a thoughtful page-turner that gets more complex with every chapter… can’t wait for more from the author!

  • Vanessa A.

    Centreville, VA

    Give me a dystopic and I’ll devour it in less than a day. I loved this. Floating cities, oil production ceasing, and extreme weather conditions - count me in!! Each perspective flowed to show the WHY.

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