Thursday, 18 February 2010

Flood - Stephen Baxter

This is a Sci-Fi experience book.

Embracing the spirit of the experience, I chose Stephen Baxter because I’ve not read any of his work before. I saw Flood when I was browsing the SFF shelves for inspiration of my library and thought it rang a bell – turned out it was because it was included in Book Smuggler Thea’s top reads of 2009. You can read their review of Flood over at their blog. After finishing it, I realised that it's part one in a duology (d'oh!) and the second book, Ark, has been recently released and is now reserved for me at the library!

The Blurb: “Four hostages are rescued from a group of religious extremists in Barcelona. After five years of being held captive together, they make a vow to always watch out for one another. But they never expected this…

The world they have returned to has been transformed by water—and the water is rising. As it continues to flow from the earth’s mantle, entire countries disappear. High ground becomes a precious commodity. And finally, the dreadful truth is revealed: before fifty years have passed, there will be nowhere left to run.”

Living in Norfolk, under the new policy of non-maintenance of coastal defences, and with the Broads providing a watery gateway into the heart of the county makes me already rather conscious of the potential impact of a relatively small rise in sea level.

The story of the flooding starts out in the UK so as the sea rises places I know start to go underwater and that makes the scenario Baxter describes really rather real. The book is divided into sections tracking significant rises in sea levels with accompanying (unnerving) maps as the catastrophe progresses.

Although following the experiences of a handful of individuals linked to the original hostages, this book is very much about the impact on humanity as a whole. There are massive human migrations that follow flooding events and the governments soon are stretched to breaking points as money is spent on sea defences that are overwhelmed before the projects can even be completed. With land reducing, agriculture is hugely impacted and it's not long before salvage platforms are built over submerged cities to extract tinned goods and other materials to try to enable those still alive to survive. There's plenty of food for thought in this book about the tough choices that would need to be made as land mass, and infrastructure, vanishes and people need to take to the extreme highlands, or rafts, to survive.

The impact of the rise in water levels is so huge that I found it hard to get to grips with most of the characters let alone to understand them as fully realised individuals. For most of them, there was little to empathise with and several of them seemed to be in the book just so that they could witness another flooding milestone. Or to die! I started the book being absolutely thrilled by it but if I am honest by the last few chapters I just wanted to know who "made it" through. I would say though, in fairness, that the story itself is so massive that it would be hard to keep the excitement of the first two thirds goin. Also, it can't have been that bad because I will absolutely be reading Ark because I am genuinely interested in following this story's journey.


Thea said...

Peta, I completely agree with you and your thoughts/criticisms/praises of FLOOD - and all I can say is, ARK is a million, zillion, bajillion times BETTER. The characters are more relatable (still very flawed, in a wonderful way), and the scope of the story is just...mind-boggling. I really cannot wait to see what you think of it!

Peta said...

A million, zillion, bajillion times BETTER? Wow. That's pretty impressive! :) I look forward to it!