Flood by Stephen Baxter (2009) is a detailed description of what the world would be like if the oceans started to rise, and kept rising until there was no land left above water. Unlike stories where the end of the world comes abruptly, Flood takes us through the changes caused by rising water over the course of over 20 years. Baxter relates to us the physical changes that world goes through as well as how humanity deals with these changes.
The story begins by giving us characters to follow and care about. Surprisingly, the characters are hostages who we meet briefly before they are freed by a man named Nathan Lammockson, a powerful and wealthy man with grand ideas for the future. Always a realist, Nathan has taken steps to ensure that he will not lose out the way others in the world are slowly losing out with regard to land, food, clothing, and shelter. Nathan recruits two of the hostages, Lily and Piers, to work for him and because of that Lily’s family come under his protection, eventually, as well. One other hostage, Helen, spends her time trying to get her daughter back, while the fourth hostage, Gary, works with other climatologists to try to figure out why the seas are rising and when (if) it will end.
The events throughout the book are punctuated by large sections of lands being lost to the ever-increasing oceans which cause a huge inland movement of humans. Baxter will get us engrossed in a storyline only to jump forward by months and even years at the oddest moments. At times this jumping ahead works well with the overall story and at other times it is just plain annoying, like the author is trying to avoid working through a particularly difficult issue.
Overall the book was an intense read. I will admit to skimming over some of the specific descriptions of the flooding as I don’t know London or other parts of Britain well enough to figure out what the author was talking about. A map thrown in every once in a while would have been really helpful although probably a bit impractical. Even though the time lapses were sometimes overwhelming, it was great to get to see the flood from beginning to end, through the building of a ship, called Ark Three, by Nathan Lammockson, through the death of some of the main characters. The best part of the book was how it lead perfectly into the sequel, Ark. You might want to buy both books together because when you are done with Flood you won’t want to wait to start Ark.