McAuley sets this long novella at around 2060 in a world trying to deal with climate change, though that is not central to the story – merely an inevitable pre-condition.
The plot moves rather slowly and mostly concerns world building, with a few somewhat crude jabs at what people in our present time did wrong. We follow Rose who suffers from being a victim to some sort of psychic weapon. She knows of a clinic in Czech Republic that might have a treatment, but she needs some money first. She comes across some information about a stack of soul chips that could be valuable. The so called soul chips was an attempt for people to upload their minds into a chip in the hope of living forever once the technology has advanced enough. Though it becomes pretty clear that it was more or less a scam based on crude machine learning creating superficial simulations of human personalities. However, in this lower-tech future some collectors find them intriguing.
This story is really mostly about our present and less about this future. The characters have plenty of conversations about our time and how people were back then, their hopes for the future and naive outlook that things could just continue forever. I think McAuley gets across what he wants to say without being overly didactic and still giving the reader an interesting story on its own.
Read in Asimov’s March/April 2023