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Flood by Stephen Baxter
Review by Andrew Brooks
Roc Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451462718
Date: 05 May 2009 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Stephen Baxter's Home Page / Show Official Info /

Stephen Baxter's Flood is fast, smart and entertaining; fans of post-apocalyptic literature are going to be reading and rereading this novel for years to come, assuming Baxter's premise doesn't come true in the near future. Baxter has put together a very well thought out story, mixing all the ingredients required for a near perfect disaster tale. A dash of characterization, a sprinkle of cool future technology and the star of the show, the ominous-run-for-your-lives disaster which propels the book along at the speed of an overflowing bathtub. Donít expect four hundred foot tsunamis here, as Baxter paces the rising of the earth's oceans over forty-two years. In fact this is one of the only disaster/apocalyptic novels Iíve read in which most of humanity isnít wiped out within the first hundred or so pages of reading. In that regard it allows Baxter to really flesh out his end game event so to speak, while also exploring the characters and their relationships to each other over the course of years. Simple terms: this equals good if you like the characters, bad if not.

Also by Stephen Baxter:
Manifold: Space
Destiny's Children:
  • Coalescent
  • Exultant
  • Transcendent
    Times Eye
    Forbidden Planets
    Time's Tapestry:
  • Emperor:
  • Conqueror
  • Navigator
  • Weaver
  • While I didnít fall in love with every single one of our protagonists, I was interested in the fate of a few, I think Baxter succeeded here. The pacing and patient characterization gives the story something a lot of books in this subgenre lack. Depth. Flood isnít going to be taught on college campuses in the future (unless Mr. Baxter is more prescient than other scientists of our day), but I argue that itís a fairly accurate depiction of the effects such a disaster would have on society, politics and the world as we understand it. Heís thought it through meticulously, and it shows. There are a few characters whose roles seem only to get us to the next plot point, but this is understandable and at times necessary. This isnít a local catastrophe, itís global. Otherwise, the characters do react and respond in ways that make sense. While their jobs take them all over the world, letting us see the flood as it unfolds, there are no invincible heroes here. Baxter also doesnít shy away from allowing his characters to be vulnerable, and there are casualties among the main protagonists. In this respect Flood reminded me of George Stewartís Earth Abides. No last minute race to save the earth in either novel, but a story about survival and acceptance of the inevitable.

    The premise is fairly straightforward. Suddenly ocean levels are rising, immediately impacting coastal cities and forcing their populations inland. The scientists discover the cause (not global warming, per se) and that itís not a question of stopping the rising waters, but of how high they will rise before it's all over. Soon entire countries are underwater and the worldís remaining populations are struggling to adapt-something Baxter covers quite well. A lot of this is delivered to the characters second-hand, but is no less chilling for it. All the scenes of disaster are there: rushing waters, mass panic, destruction and the inevitable struggle of the refugees from any major event like this. Baxter includes it all in detail.

    Flood is all three, wondrous, horrific and heart breaking. Itís everything I look for in this type of story and more. While some may find the pacing slow at points, the post-apocalyptic world Baxter envisions has been put down on the page with great care and none of the details in any aspect (characterization, scientific explanations, etc) seemed overblown. I recommend highly.

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