New Treasures: Burrowed by Mary Baader Kaley

New Treasures: Burrowed by Mary Baader Kaley

Burrowed (Angry Robot, January 10, 2023). Cover by Apostolos Gkantinas

We’re not that far into 2023, and there’s already been a fine crop of debut novelists. The latest to show up on my radar is Mary Baader Kaley, whose first novel Burrowed, a far-future tale of a genetic plague that splits humanity in two, was published by Angry Robot last month. I bought it the week after it came out at Barnes & Noble.

There’s lot of cool ideas in Burrowed (Booklist proclaims it “A great read for fans of postapocalyptic novels,” and Publishers Weekly says it “captivates with inventive science and adventure… [a] riveting thriller”), but the book didn’t really catch my eye until I read the author’s Big Idea post at John Scalzi’s blog, in which she explains that the idea for the novel arose out of the challenges of raising an autistic son.

Here’s a brief excerpt for her article.

My husband and I belong to an exclusive club we never meant to join. We are the parents of a special-needs child who will be fully dependent on us for the rest of our lives, because our youngest of three children was born with a brain malformation. Based on the parts of the brain involved, doctors surmised something impacted his development around my eighth week of pregnancy when I was very sick and hospitalized. Looking at him, you can’t see the malformation, but you can’t miss his secondary diagnosis: autism.

He’s fifteen now.

The seed of what would become Burrowed began to take root when he was three — after he began to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time and the fog of sleep deprivation began to lift. I wondered what it would look like if everyone had some sort of disability, and an entire world grew from there. Some people in this world must live underground because they’re too sickly and weak to be exposed to the general population. Everyone else is healthy enough to live above ground but suffer from debilitating conditions of their minds. I wanted to explore how people with various disabilities are treated. Is it possible to see a person for his or her strengths rather than isolate them for their defining difference?

And to bring this back to the real world, another question arises — how can non-disabled people make a difference for someone with a disability? The answer couldn’t be simpler. We can have that person’s back.

Read the whole thing at Scalzi’s blog here.

Burrowed was published by Angry Robot on January 10, 2023. It is 365 pages, priced at $17.99 in trade paperback and $6.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Apostolos Gkantinas. My copy also had a sample chapter from Chris Panatier’s novel The Phlebotomist in the back. Get all the details at the Angry Robot website here.

See all our recent coverage of the best new SF and Fantasy in our New Treasures columns.

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