Book Review: The Offset – Calder Szewczak

Book Review: The Offset – Calder Szewczak

Release Date:
September 14th 2021
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Pages: 240
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3.75/5 stars


It is your eighteenth birthday and one of your parents must die. You are the one who decides. Whom do you pick?

In a dying world, the Offset ceremony has been introduced to counteract and discourage procreation. It is a rule that is simultaneously accepted, celebrated and abhorred. But in this world, survival demands sacrifice so for every birth, there must be a death.

Professor Jac Boltanski is leading Project Salix, a ground-breaking new mission to save the world by replanting radioactive Greenland with genetically-modified willow trees. But things aren’t working out and there are discrepancies in the data. Has someone intervened to sabotage her life’s work?

In the meantime, her daughter Miri, an anti-natalist, has run away from home. Days before their Offset ceremony where one of her mothers must be sentenced to death, she is brought back against her will following a run-in with the law. Which parent will Miri pick to die: the one she loves, or the one she hates who is working to save the world?


The Offset is an incredibly intriguing story, one set in a world where overpopulation is counteracted by a ceremony known as the offset. When a child reaches 18, they must choose which of their parents must die. Miri is the daughter of the famous Jac Boltanski, leader of Project Salix that will help to save the world. When Jac finds some irregularities in the project’s data, she must discover what’s going on. Meanwhile, their offset is days away and Miri has run away from home. Miri knows in a few days’ time she will need to make an impossible decision – which of her parents will die? The one she loves or the one she hates who might be humanity’s last hope?

The Offset is one of those books where you read the premise and you know immediately that you need to read it. The story has such a unique concept and I was hooked right from the get-go. This is a bleak story and one that felt incredibly plausible. While this is a relatively short story, Szewczak has packed a lot into the pages and I was glued to the book for hours at a time. The story is well-paced, giving the reader a chance to get to know the state the world is now in. I also really enjoyed the writing style in the book and it was easy to get to grips with what was going on.

Where I think The Offset really excels are the interesting characters. Miri is an anti-natalist and tasked with making this really awful decision – she has complicated feelings for Jac, but can she rid the world of their hope for survival? The story really centres on the idea of sacrifice and I thought it was incredibly well executed.

The Offset is completely unlike anything I’ve read before and is definitely a book that sticks with you. If you’re looking for some thought-provoking science fiction that will have you hooked till the very last page, The Offset should definitely be on your wishlist.

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