Camp Zero

Michelle Min Sterling

Quick Synopsis

In a near-future northern settlement, the fates of a young woman, a professor, and a mysterious collective of researchers collide in this mesmerizing and transportive debut that “delivers its big ideas with suspense, endlessly surprising twists, and abundant heart” (Jessamine Chan, New York Times bestselling author).

Publisher’s Synopsis

In remote northern Canada, a team led by a visionary American architect is break­ing ground on a building project called Camp Zero, intended to be the beginning of a new way of life. A clever and determined young woman code-named Rose is offered a chance to join the Blooms, a group hired to entertain the men in camp—but her real mission is to secretly monitor the mercurial architect in charge. In return, she’ll receive a home for her climate-displaced Korean immigrant mother and herself.

Rose quickly secures the trust of her target, only to discover that everyone has a hidden agenda, and nothing is as it seems. Through skill­fully braided perspectives, including those of a young professor longing to escape his wealthy family and an all-woman military research unit struggling for survival at a climate station, the fate of Camp Zero’s inhabitants reaches a stunning crescendo.

Atmospheric, fiercely original, and utterly gripping, Camp Zero is an electrifying page-turner and a masterful exploration of who and what will survive in a warming world, and how falling in love and building community can be the most daring acts of all.

Book Review

Camp Zero is a debut eco-fiction novel that follows a camp in the Canadian Far North that springs up in a desolate village after oil has been banned. Those living at the camp are building a new settlement for American climate refugees or are serving the workers through education or pleasure.

Upfront, I will say that I am struggling to understand the hype behind this book. I can not say I have even seen many reviews for it. So I am going to chalk this up to a strong advertising campaign for a book that falls short.

To me, the synopsis for Camp Zero pointed to this book being suspenseful and fast-paced. However, I found that only the former is true. Camp Zero leaves a lot to be discovered along its storyline. By keeping readers in the dark, Min Sterling propels the readers forward through the novel. Yet, what is later revealed is rather obvious and easy to figure out, or overshadowed.

Because Min Sterling tries to create suspense through restricting information, character development suffers. While characters are initially described, I was never able to gain a full picture of who they are or their motivations. Consequently, I did not become invested in the characters and needed the plot to do all the work.

Told through multiple timelines and points of view, Camp Zero weaves several stories through its pages until they intersect. The novel’s beginning is a retelling of past events for our main characters. Herein is much of the story and action. Once the book reaches the present, it is a rather slow and mostly pointless slog up until the last five chapters. Crammed into these chapters is the climax and resolution. If we look past the mysteriousness of the story, there is not a strong plot.

I kept reading Camp Zero expecting the plotlines to converge and bring meaning to the story. I anticipated that the long, rather slow set up would be paid off by the ending, making the entire book worth the time it took to get there. But I was left disappointed and grasping to understand the point of Camp Zero. There seemed to be no stakes involved.

My general impression with Camp Zero is that felt like it never fully committed. This book is being promoted as feminist climate fiction, but Min Sterling never takes it far enough to really be feminist. Sure, there are inklings of feminism and strong women; however, a clear statement is never made. Similarly, Min Sterling raises land stewardship multiple times without ever truly discussing it and never mentioning First Nations or Indigenous people. I will not list all the issues or themes that are included in the story. Just know that each is included without any real commitment, leaving whispers of things readers are seemingly expected to assume or build upon in their own minds. Although Camp Zero has an interesting concept at its heart, there is no real point to the story and at most, a weak takeaway. Essentially, this is a novel built upon the premise of climate change without any real stakes, urgency, or heart.

Overall, Camp Zero included all the components to a good story but failed to build beyond the foundation. In the end, this debut novel seemed a pointless endeavor that lacked a point. If you like books solely based upon vibes, you may enjoy this book. Otherwise, I would skip it.


Overall Rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.


Rating: 3 out of 5.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

Character Development

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Camp Zero


Science Fiction – Dystopian; Speculative Fiction

Publication Date
April 4, 2023


Read with Jenna Pick

Storygraph Rating
3.35 stars

Goodreads Rating
3.33 stars

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One response to “Camp Zero”

  1. Great review, like you I heard a lot about this book but it left me slightly underwhelmed. The payoff in the ending wasn’t worth the build up, and I felt it was deliberately left with a sequel in mind. And agree about the issues that looked promising but ended up half baked. Also too many flashbacks for me.


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