Sunday, May 17, 2009

Flood - Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter

Science Fiction

How would the world cope if the water level began to rise and would not stop? That’s the terrifying premise of this novel. It seems pretty innocuous at first. There’s a lot of rain, and some rivers flood their banks and levees. The knee-jerk first reaction is to write it off as a fluke; or attribute it to global warming. And then go on with life, as usual.

But the rise in water level doesn’t stop. And it can’t all be due to global warming. In a matter of years, many coastal plains are flooded. It’s a scary statistic that nearly a quarter of the world’s population lives on a coast or waterway. The first few years, millions of people are displaced and must be housed on higher ground. That alone is a huge undertaking. And, as the water begins to cover the ground, plants and wildlife die off, skewing the normal rate of carbon dioxide exchange. In short, this event, which is only the beginning, triggers a chain of other events that will forever alter the surface of the Earth.

In such broad terms as this, the struggles of man to survive may be no more important than the struggle of any other animal. The author manages to put a face on things by following Lily Brooke. Lily was once a pilot for the USAF. She was taken hostage by extremists in Spain and held for five years. When she emerges from captivity, the world is already changing, but the vast majority of people don’t see it. Maybe they don’t want to see it. The reader spends the next fifty years or so with Lily, witnessing events primarily through her eyes. Through her, we see the events on a large, global scale; and on a small, family scale.

The reaction of the peoples of the world to the flooding is all the more frightening because it rings so true. It is not difficult at all to imagine events unfolding in precisely this way. National governments would be doing what they can; local governments doing what they must to protect their people and their little patches of ground. Corporations would be hanging on, trying to wring the last bit of money, power, and influence out of an unthinkable situation. Families and individuals would face the day-to-day tasks necessary to live to see another sunrise. The author never takes the easy way out of any situation. The story is disturbingly possible. FLOOD is a pragmatic, sometimes brutal, look at the way that life as we know it could come to an end.

Rating: 9
May 2009
ISBN# 978-0-451-46271-8 (hardcover)


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