Sunday, March 22, 2009

Flood-Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter
Roc, May 2009, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451462718

In 2016 in Barcelona, the religious fanatics still hold four hostages snatched several years ago. USAF Captain Lily Brooke, British military officer Piers Michaelmas, NASA scientist Gary Boyle; and Helen Gray are losing hope of ever regaining their freedom, but each vows to help one another through the ordeal and if they ever become liberated afterward. Affluent Brit AxysCorp security CEO Nathan Lammockson pulls off the impossible by rescuing the foursome after they were held for several years.

However, during their captivity, the world has radically changed as the water levels have reached pandemic flooding leaving whole countries beneath the sea and high points as exclusive property for those who can afford it and security. In a desperate gambit as he expects the entire land masses to go under the water, Nathan has moved his operation to the high Andes Inca capital of Cuzco where he has hired experts to build a new Queen Mary, he dubs Ark 3. He chooses who lives and who dies. In four decades, the ocean average depth above sea level rises exponentially as flood walls costly are overwhelmed. Nathan’s dream of Britannia ruling the waves again may happen, but outside of Ark 3 there may not be a human alive much longer as the end is near.

Obvious extrapolation of global warming and a theory on the mantle containing more water than the crust and with a nod to Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, FLOOD is an exhilarating rapidly rising cautionary science fiction thriller. The section titles tell much of what is happening as the mean sea level of 1.5 meters in 2010 rises to 1800-8800 meters above sea level between 2041 and 2052. The cast is solid with an ensemble of many more critical players than the five above. Though somewhat repetitive as cities and countries constantly drown, Stephen Baxter hooks his audience with his no hope for humanity tale; as the bible turns out to be a false prophet re the pledge to Noah never again by sea.

Harriet Klausner