In 1977, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wroteLucifer s Hammer , a novel dealing with the collapse of civilization after the Earth is hit by a massive comet.When it was written, the world s major anxiety was nuclear weapons The possibility that the United States and the Soviet Union with a much smaller role played by China would annihilate humanity with a massive exchange of explosions and radiation was a pervasive nightmare Lucifer s Hammer was a clear response to this anxiety It allowed the authors the chance to explore many of the likely consequences of nuclear war without triggering the enmity of either the peace nik or warmonger crowds Curiously, it wasn t until several years later that the nuclear winter hypothesis made a cometary impact an even appropriate stand in for a massive nuclear exchange.The book also pointed out that nature could mete out punishment far in excess of anything humans could inflict on themselves We re relative pikers at creating Extinction Level EventsFlood , by Stephen Baxter, is a well intentioned effort to replicate this.Today, climate change is the fear, whose most visible consequence would be rising sea levels Baxter takes this latter phenomena and extrapolates a runaway Flood scenario to make it much, much worse As with Lucifer s Hammer, each step of the escalating threat is lovingly detailed, and eventually long stretches of time are elided to show the consequences and resolutions of earlier crises Both books end with elderly survivors watching the youth of a post apocalyptic generation with hope, despair and affection.Unfortunately, Baxter didn t write a very good book.The book s strength is, oddly for a hard science fiction effort, in the characters Each is a well crafted and unique personality Most are personable enough that we care about their fates, sometimes grudgingly, others are distasteful enough that we also care about their fates, although perhaps with animosity But our affection or disdain won t last nearly as long as the book the end simply takes too long to reach The first half or so moves adequately fast, when the extent of the disaster is still being revealed, but once we are clued in to the world s ultimate fate the details of how individuals react are undoubtedly necessary, but not riveting enough to keep things interesting.For fans of hard science fiction, perhaps the biggest failure of the book is the wholly manufactured crisis We ve been told by trustworthy scientists that a major cometary impact is only a matter of time, so Lucifer s Hammer doesn t take a huge leap of faith But after billions of years of peacefully waiting in the Earth s mantle, why would Baxter s flood decide to bubble up at all, much less now For many others, the problem is simply the length of the book or at least the perceived length There are many thousand page books that stay engaging throughout, which is something this five hundred page novel did not.My recommendation If you want the better apocalyptic story, read the thirty year old Lucifer s Hammer If you really want a plausible depiction of how the world might end after this very implausible disaster, then Baxter s slow novel is serviceable. It Begins In Another Wet Summer, Another Year Of Storm Surges And High Tides But This Time The Thames Barrier Is Breached And Central London Is Swamped The Waters Recede, Life Goes On, The Economy Begins To Recover, People Watch The News Reports Of Other Floods Around The World And Then The Waters Rise Again And AgainLily, Helen, Gary And Piers, Hostages Released From Five Years Captivity At The Hands Of Christian Extremists In Spain, Return To England And The First Rumours Of A Flood Of Positively Biblical Proportions Sea Levels Have Begun To Rise, At Catastrophic Speed Within Two Years London And New York Will Be Under Water The Pope Will Give His Last Address From The Vatican Before Rome Is Swallowed By The Rising Water Mecca Too Will Vanish Beneath The WavesThe World Is Drowning A Desperate Race To Find Out What Is Happening Begins The Popular Theory Is That We Are Paying The Price For Our Profligacy And That Climate Change Is About To Redress Gaia S Balance But There Are Dissenting Views And All The Time The Waters Continue To Rise And Mankind Begins The Great Retreat To Higher Ground Millions Will Die, Billions Will Become Migrants Wars Will Be Fought Over Mountains I really wanted to like this book I really did I am a huge fan of apocalyptic fiction On the surface, this book seems to fit the bill The seas are rising, the earth is flooding what will humanity do to survive What s not to like right Well, it turns out quite a bit This is the first book in a long time that I have had to force myself to get through The first 50 pages or so have some flashes of interest, but mostly read like stale and overly long description of geography and topography in and around London It was a grind to get up and going with this book It s by Stephen Baxter an award winning SF author whose books I have seen on shelves for years I had never read one of his books until now probably not a good choice on my part The story starts as four hostages are released by religious extremists in Barcelona, Spain after five years of captivity They travel to England and try to catch up with the world they left behind One major development is that the world s oceans have started to rise albeit slowly The story then follows the four hostages, and some of the acquaintances they make along the way, as the situation becomes and dire, and the oceans rise higher and higher over the course of 40 years There you go you have the whole story Sure, there is some attempt at character development and a novel explanation of why the oceans are rising thankfully not global warming I would have dropped the book there if the author had taken such an easy and false way out but there was a fundamental lack of story that I couldn t get past The book wanted to feel like a sweeping epic chronicling the slow demise of the planet and taking us along on humanity s struggle to survive following the hostages as their stories wove in and out of the story of the end of the world Instead, I found it pedestrian, unfulfilling, and at times boring I did, however persevere through the book, and found a few nuggets along the way Towards the end of the book there is a scene where much of what is left of humanity gathers in rafts around the remaining speck of land on the globe the peak of Mount Everest It was one of the few emotional moments I connected with in the book the idea of watching the last peak disappear beneath the waves was a powerful visual Still it was too little, much too late, and didn t carry the weight in the story that it should have It kept me just engaged enough to keep going, and did provide me with an interesting end of the world scenario I did not, however, emotionally invest in the characters and ultimately didn t care what happened to them The end of the book was perfectly set up for a sequel, which came out this spring Ark, anyone I won t be going back to see what happens next. I imagine this book happened this way A group of intelligent science fiction writers were sitting around a table and drinking perhaps a bit too much and they were making a list of the worst science fiction movies of all time Stephen Baxter who was a little drunk at the time shouts out Waterworld and everyone laughs especially at the fish gilled Kevin Costner character And seriously where did all that water come from And then Stephen got a glassy look on his face and said you know what I can make that work I can make Waterworld plausible His friends all laughed in his face, so Stephen got determined and unlike most ideas we get when we are drinking he said not only will I make Waterworld plausible I ll create a TRILOGY So there you have it whether you asked for it or not you now have a plausible version of Waterworld What about characters you ask Well no one reads Baxter for the characters and this isn t the book to start expecting to They aren t bad and they might be interesting but Baxter tends to lose interest in them in order to explore his ideas and extrapolate where those ideas would lead And if you ve read your Baxter, and I have, you know that where all this ends up is never pleasant nor can anyone do much about it Ideas are great, people are interesting when you get some time with them, and the pacing is okay if a bit slow Enjoy the big idea, think about what it means, and see the fireworks as it all plays out Average Baxter is still better than most idea books that you will read. What a devastating and epic novel Flood is the story of planetary catastrophe, of a titular flood that subsumes human civilization.Baxter offers a small group of characters to humanize this disaster Intriguingly, they are all former hostages, comrades in privation This bonds them for life, setting them up as a team who try to aid each other as the world goes to hell.And to a watery hell it races Flood begins by drowning London and southeast England, and never lets up The oceans simply keep rising, and we track this by regular updates on by just how many meters above 2010 norms sea level has ascended The source of this is not climate change, but the catastrophic release of subterranean bodies of water Several scientist characters offer hypotheses to explain this, yet never fully convince anyone, especially as the scientific enterprise itself falters and collapses.This is not a typical disaster book There are no real heroes, no major plotlines of rescue, very little politics Instead Flood is a hard science fiction novel crossed with one of J.G Ballard s world destroying books The Drowned World, The Burning World, The Crystal World We get superbly detailed descriptions of ruined cities and vast storms, alterations to oceanic ecosystems and dystopian planned communities It is also deeply sad in its impact on me as reader, not in explicit tone view spoiler Millions, then billions die, sometimes in horrible situations Cities, countries, then continents vanish The entire record of human civilization disappears We get a glimpse of a last rocket desperately leaving Earth, maybe, and that s about it for our human dream A new generation rises, but they are utterly ignorant and uncaring, clearly descending back down the evolutionary track hide spoiler For a fan of end of the world stories, what s not to like about this book It posits a world where massive oceans underneath the Earth s mantle have broken through and are slowly flooding the world as we know it Over the course of four decades, the sea level rises to eventually drown Mt Everest The struggle to deal with this slow motion catastrophe is ripe for any number of plots So, what s not to like Plenty.Flood is a bad book I don t mean subjectively bad like I prefer apples over oranges I mean objectively bad in that this fruit is rotten Bad books aren t unusual Most, though, can be fixed by a good editor Not so this book It needed a competent author.First of all, a vast majority of this book is masses of expository text One character bringing another up to speed on a third, the narrator describing the science behind some phenomenon, or, my b te noir, maps drawn with words Do I really need to be told everything Can nothing be left to the imagination Well, yes, actually most of what should pass for a story What purpose do the characters serve I mean, other than to keep the reader up to date How about some emotion What little there is seems to have a misogynistic bent Consider this A man marries a woman to get at her pre teen daughter.That now teen age daughter is the object of desire for a man three decades her senior.Another woman was impregnated by rape and gave birth before the book starts.That child, as a grown woman, is tricked into a marriage so she can get pregnant as part of a plan to save her.Most of this occurs off handedly, like it s a normal, every day occurrence How about something a little than one line blurted out at the end of a chapter My favorite involved the group that trekked all the way from Nebraska to the Andes in hopes of finding refuge After years of effort, one of the main characters asks for entrance into the city, but is denied When told of this, a companion responds, Well, you tried This blandness is accentuated by the disjointed nature of the storyline The book feels like it was assembled from a set of random story points Where the paths don t match up, enter the deus ex machina No, seriously, this is a line from a scene where the main character, thinking she will down, is rescued by another in a submarine Hi, Lily What an entrance Talk about a deus ex machina, huh This kind of coincidence is so common throughout the book, that I could anticipate them In fact, one of the characters, Nathan Lammockson, is a walking god in the machine Two characters need to get across the world in a hurry Nathan s a rich man, he ll get you there There s no problem he can t solve Oh, no Our boat s sinking That s OK, Nathan had his scientists genetically engineer some sea weed we can use to build a raft.Finally, and this is a personal issue for me, the information architecture of the book is chaotic There are parts divided into chapters which are sub divided into blocks of paragraphs separated by extra space Do these have meaning No The dividing lines seem to have no meaning A single scene can stretch across a part boundary while a sub section gap can be years Some chapters have dates, but most don t Finally, some chapters are labeled as one of the character s scrapbook, except its not written any differently than other narration This chaos is not the cause of the book s problems, but rather a symptom that little thought has gone into the story s structure.I love end of the world stories I m desperate for good ones I got schnookered by this one. Two stars seems rather harsh for a book that I was able to finish, but going by the good reads guidelines it was okay So two stars it is.A small group of hostages are rescued after years of captivity and find themselves in an unrecognizable world where the oceans are slowly taking over.Interesting enough premise Not as preachy as one might imagine The message of man destroying Mother Earth is there but I don t think it s enough to bother anyone My problem was the writing itself The characters just float ha through the pages The emotional impact is glossed over The hostages are fine in the next chapter from being rescued The connection between the characters seem contrived And I felt nothing for any of them I also have to mention that every male character had problems with being machismo And every female character caved into it or in some way was forced to.I also found it a little stereotypical It never crossed the line into what I would consider racism I think it was a case of shallow writing.I have a problem with a lot of apocalyptic work I can t believe humanity would go down without a fight Even if it was a losing battle I don t think our future would rest on one lone business man Strangely the world s governments are for the most part missing.I m a fan of life finding a way science fiction And am intrigued by future human evolution, purely in a fantastical setting And at the end there is a touch of this Enough so that I m tempted to read the next book even though I really didn t like this one. Ripping good fiction mediocre at best science fiction flawed by egregious errors in history, geography and science.Without giving away too much, it s hard to enumerate where he went wrong His interpersonal relationships lack credibility His knowledge of things American is superficial and often wrong He ignores the thousands of ships and boats large and small including a dozen American aircraft carriers, though he creates two British carriers from whole cloth in his rush to depopulate the ocean Baxter s two novels a year writing pace may relate to the shoddy research and proofing of this story From his own Afterword one gets the impression he rounded up a couple sources and wove a tale. At times preachy, in a politically correct way, about the typical social justice Kumbaya topics, this book nevertheless captured an undervisited apocalyptic scenario global flooding Well, yes, it s been done, all respect to Gilgamesh and Noah and the Atlanteans, but not in a while, at least The last time it was in hardcover, the hard cover was onyx Like our own lives, the characters get caught up in their own day to day and lose touch, seeing one another briefly over the course of decades as the Earth drowns, meter by meter Governments collapse, wars blossom, and refugees move to higher ground In the end, spoiler alert, the survivors devolve back into a semi primitive state, without any interest in maintaining the vestiges of civilization, knowledge, or technology which their dying ancestors try to pass on I m willing to bet that the author is a parent Probably a home school dad, too Been there, done that, guy I feel your pain.Some survivors do manage to launch a colonization attempt onboard a spaceship Others create communities on rafts There s not a not too subtle indication of the sequel, which would focus on yet another means of survivaland which, okay, I d read, given the opportunity.I found this book on the 1 shelf at the Dollar Tree, which must be the most embarrassing thing imaginable for an author At least if your book is in a thrift store or a yard sale, you know that somebody read it once, at least, right But I find a lot of good new hardback books that way, and I can t for the life of me imagine the Idiocracy like vagaries of people s reading appetites, when they prefer books about reality tv shows to something which might make them think This is one such novel. Minus 1 star for referring to carbon dioxide as cee oh two Minus 9 stars for having an incredibly one dimensional main character, it s almost like she was only there to witness what was going on with other people Incredibly passive character, stuff just happens to her and around her but she has little real voice or opinion Minus 34 stars for being plain stupid and boring But note I didn t subtract any stars for the pretend science that wasn t even really based in anything but cow pies I chalked it up to science fiction writing, which isn t always researched as well as it could be.
Stephen Baxter is a trained engineer with degrees from Cambridge mathematics and Southampton Universities doctorate in aeroengineering research Baxter is the winner of the British Science Fiction Award and the Locus Award, as well as being a nominee for an Arthur C Clarke Award, most recently for Manifold Time His novel Voyage won the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History Novel of the
- 536 pages
- Stephen Baxter
- 05 May 2018 Stephen Baxter