Thursday, June 21, 2018

THE FLOODED EARTH by Mardi McConnochie, a cli-fi thriller

_____________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 40. . . .June 15, 2018
coverThe Flooded Earth.
Mardi McConnochie.
Toronto, ON: Pajama Press, Nov., 2018.
328 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-77278-049-9.

Subject Headings:
Twins-Juvenile fiction.
Sailing ships-Juvenile fiction.
Survival at sea-Juvenile fiction.
Family secrets-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Todd Kyle.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
“But I want to come with you.”

“I’m sorry, son. You can’t. Not this time.” Spinner looked at Will, his face filled with love and tenderness and anxiety and all the words there was no time to say. They both caught the sound of heavy vehicles in the distance, their engines roaring.

“I’ll send word when I can,” Spinner said. He hugged Will tightly. “Be careful. Be safe. Now go.” His hard hand pushed Will in the back, propelling him toward the door.

Will looked back one last time and saw Spinner, the wiry old man, with his coif of silvery hair sanding up like a parrot’s crest, packing a few last essentials into a backpack. Spinner looked up at him and his dark eyes blazed. “Go!” he roared.

And Will pushed out the back door and into the night.

Will and his sister Annalie live in a future world where the earth has been devastated by a great Flood, leaving huge swaths of their country of Dux in semi-ruins where families like theirs eke out a dangerous existence. When their father Spinner is accused of stealing scientific secrets, he leaves in a hurry to escape the clutches of the all-powerful Admiralty which controls their government and much of the world. Will and Annalie escape in their father’s sailboat to find him by following clues to the distant Moon Islands, joined in short order by Essie, Annalie’s friend from boarding school, and Pod, an abandoned slave they find stranded on a tiny atoll. Outrunning the Admiralty, cannibals, and pirates, and surviving near-death in dangerous seas, they finally make it to their Uncle Art’s remote seaside home, discovering to their disappointment that Spinner is not there. Art tells them the truth of their father’s past, but when he reveals he has informed the Admiralty of their arrival, the four escape once again in their sailboat to continue their quest.

      A taut, suspenseful, masterfully written “cli-fi” thriller, The Flooded Earth combines the best of speculative fiction with strong characterization and moral dilemma. The post-Flood world is described in vivid detail, from the high-class world of Annalie’s boarding school to the damp, ramshackle, gang-infested world of their home neighborhood known as Lowtown. The Admiralty are presented as both saviours and tyrants, with incredible technological and seafaring prowess coupled with insidious influence and class domination. Will and Annalie are polar opposites, one studious and careful, the other courageous and practical. Essie is a study in ambiguity—a rich girl who escapes with Annalie after learning her father, a developer, is implicated in a massive building collapse, and someone who struggles to come to terms with her loss while abandoning all luxury. The moment when the group finds Pod, realizing for the first time in their lives that slavery is rampant, is a profound indictment of our contemporary world, almost as much as the human-caused Flood.

      It is interesting that the author has chosen not to set the book in recognizable geography or nations—where is Dux (whose citizens apparently speak Duxan) and the Moon Island archipelago? Yet their world seems very familiar, as if set in the near future after an enormous rupture. Rich citizens even carry smartphone-like devices called “shells” on which they can access a network called “the links”. Will and Annalie’s mastery of sailing is believable, their having travelled extensively with their father, but there are one or two times where repairs seem to be done almost imperceptibly. They are able to survive on supplies and fresh water they buy in various outports using cash Essie withdrew on her credit account before they left Dux—but it is odd that when they find Pod after several days at sea and feed him, one item they give him is a banana, a food item highly unlikely to last that long.

      But the pace and flow of the adventure in The Flooded Earth more than makes up for any minor inconsistencies. When the foursome are betrayed at the very end and are forced to continue their voyage, readers will find themselves disappointed, exhilarated, and begging for more.
Highly Recommended.
Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario and a board member of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations-Fédération canadienne des associations de bibliothèques.

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