In the far future, Bran has been on his island for ten years, carefully counting the days. He expects to be there another 20 years, until he dies. He feeds himself on fish, crabs and vegetation and keeps a fire lit in his cave on the high ground by digging peat and felling a tree every eight weeks. It rains almost all the time, making the island continually smaller as the sea rises. He has long since stopped talking to himself. He is 53.
Almost all the earth is under water, civilisations long lost and forgotten, whole dead cities visible on the ocean bed. Bran was the leader of his people, first a warrior, then the broker of peace with the rival land of Axum, exiled later for creating The Programme -- a plan to cull the old and infirm to conserve resources and ensure the survival of his race.
One day a silent man is washed up on the island and Bran believes that he recognises him as Andalus, the leader of Axum. Concerned by this trespass, he determines to go home again, even if it means his death. But his land has changed: people are no longer short of food, no one he knows is to be found and no one seems to know who he is. He has been erased from history.
Has he miscounted the years of his exile? Does Andalus exist outside his imagination? Is he mad? Dead? Has he left the island at all? I honestly did not expect these questions to be answered but, largely, they are, although that raises other questions.
Human sacrifice can take many forms: willing victims to appease the gods; or men who make the hard decisions -- decisions that their more prosperous successors want to bury beneath a mound of lies and denial.
It's an intriguing novel, original, compelling and, perhaps surprisingly, a good and easy read.