Stephe Stafford’s life is turned upside down when a massive earthquake strikes San Francisco in 2022. His parents are killed, along with thousands of others, and all at once his safe, ordinary childhood is shattered. Stephe grows to manhood amidst the turmoil of a radically changing America. From natural disasters to war, Stephe must learn to make his way in a world that is rapidly devolving. Civil rights and LGBT protections are rolled back and lawlessness becomes commonplace. As a journalist, Stephe struggles to capture the reality of the new America while trying to find love of his own. When it seems like the world can’t any worse, Stephe meets an unexpected group of allies that might just be able to save humanity from themselves.
So there’s a lot happening in 2037: The End of Tolerance. A lot. Natural disasters, violence against the LGBT community, civil war, succession…and then the aliens show up. Honestly, I wish that last part was a joke, but it’s not. Sufficed to say, 2037 starts out with an interesting concept and then goes off the rails.
We’re introduced to Stephe when he’s a teenager and dealing with a tremendous personal loss. His beloved city has been nearly destroyed by an earthquake and his parents are among the dead. The first few chapters start off strong enough and it was easy to champion Stephe as he started to rebuild his life. Unfortunately, the story just sort of stops at this point. What we get for most of the book is basically a list of events. This happens, then that, and so on, with Stephe slotted into the action here and there. There’s an almost pedantic quality to the writing and the plot never evolves into anything comprehensive. Conversations between characters are sterile, stiff, and lacking in natural cadence.
The world the author creates is a dark one and dystopian to say the least. I mean it’s not quite Mad Max level, but it gets pretty darn close. The violence towards the LGBT community is horrific and anyone with triggers should consider themselves forewarned. I don’t think the descriptions are overly gratuitous and I think the points the author was attempting to make are valid, even when they feel slightly overblown.
There’s no real character development in Stephe, and his relationships are just a string of uninspired men, so it was hard to feel connected to either Stephe or his story. And this just added to the overall lack of depth in 2037. It’s a lot of surface plot and not much else. Which is a shame because the overall premise was promising. On a final note, the author made some sweeping generalizations that are borderline stereotyping. Some of them involve gay relationships and, not being a gay man, I won’t comment on them, but there were also some statements about “fly over states” that annoyed me. I live in the Midwest and there’s no doubt my state is redder than most, but there are still lots of good people living here. It always angers me when populations outside major American cities are dismissed or tarred with the same ignorant brush. Stereotypes are always problematic and perpetuating them never achieves anything positive.
2037: The End of Tolerance started out with an interesting idea, but it gets buried under a weak plot and lackluster characters. The writing is adequate, but there just isn’t much to the overall story and I found it lacked an emotional core. Fans of dystopian fiction might enjoy this one, but it didn’t work for me.