Friday, September 26, 2014


The genre of post-apocalyptic fiction is by now well populated by a host of novels. It is definitely a popular niche. The novel Flood by Stephen Baxter is another in this category. It was a chilling tale that got under my skin and left me with a lingering sense of anxiety and a sense of mourning. A story that slowly and methodically built to a deafening crescendo of suffering and loss until there was only silence. Chilling, haunting, and impactful would be appropriate labels.

The story begins in 2016 where a group of American and British hostages is liberated from a five-year captivity by rogue anti-government agents operating in Spain. As a result of their shared experience, the group vows to stay in contact and support each other as they go back to their lives. However, they quickly find that the world that they have returned to is battling some rather strange and unexplained climatic events that have caused water levels world-wide to rise to unprecedented levels. The former captives were actually in Spain in the first place to support investigations of anomalous weather patterns. Continuing their work, they bounce around the world investigating and trying to develop predictive models. Ultimately they come to the conclusion that the water-level rise is on an exponential curve, and members of their team believe that they understand why. A long-standing theory in some terrestrial models held that vast oceans were trapped beneath the Earth's crust during its formation. The volume of water contained in these voids could potentially enclose a volume significantly larger than the world's oceans. If tectonic shifts occurred such that this volume was released, then humanity could be in trouble.

The story follows the development of the flood up until the year 2052 when the waters finally cover all of the land. Humanity struggled at times valiantly and courageously, but more often selfishly and murderously as the incessant rise of the waters overran every trace of human history, leaving nothing behind. Baxter paces his story in such a manner that you can feel the noose constricting about humanity's neck. Finally, humanity has reached a point where we are all equal, red, yellow, back, and white, poor or rich, educated or ignorant, the water drowns us all without regard, without favoritism. All that remains are a few rag-tag bands of individuals floating about on raft-based habitats gamely trying to exist and hold on. There are also rumors of a small remnant of survivors who left for the stars to spread humanity's seed to a new world. That is the focus of the second part of this saga in Ark.