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  • Flood
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3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 26 October 2008
This book begins in 2016 with the story of five hostages held in Barcelona, where it's raining heavily and won't stop. They're rescued by a team sent by Nathan Lomockson - a technocrat and very rich man - but not before one of them is brutally killed. The remaining four pledge to look out for each other from then on. Lomockson himself takes a lifelong interest in each of them, and their fates thereafter are tied in with his. The ensuing events in the novel take place over a span of around sixty years.

The narrative moves forward by chronological increments as the world's water level increases, and continues to rise. The episodic structure suits the book perfectly - it's a neat narrative trick. Baxter provides us with a series of snapshots of important events and details the human reaction to each stage of the increase.

Nathan sets himself up as a would-be saviour of the world. He appears at pivotal points throughout the story as the sea levels rise higher and higher, and we see the impact of important events on his and/or one or more of the former hostages. Although a hard-boiled, nuts and bolts SF writer, Stephen Baxter realises that his book would be nothing if the reader weren't allowed to engage emotionally with the characters.

And even though the characterisation isn't as strong as your average mainstream writer's, it's still good enough to carry the story of the watery death of an entire planet.

If you remember back to your schooldays (a harder and harder job for some of us!) the hydrologic cycle taught us that there is not one extra drop of water now than there was at the time of creation. So where is the extra water coming from? Melting icecaps? That would only be responsible for a limited increase. The author comes up with a fairly plausible reason for the scenario - and guess what? - we're responsible! But I'll say no more about this aspect, as I don't want to spoil the book for readers.

This is a big fat tome but I galloped through it very quickly. There are a lot of evocative scenes that resonate in the mind long after the book is finished, and it reminded me of why I fell in love with SF in the first place some thirty years ago. I for one am greatly looking forward to the follow-up `Ark', due out next year.
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on 7 June 2013
It's a good read but...
There were moments when reading the book, that I felt something was missing. Just couple of paragraphs here and there, more defined picture, just a few more details. With the action spanning some fifty years it is not easy to choose what to write about and what to concentrate on but I felt that sometimes the action was tat too narrow.
The main problem of the book is the lack of definition of characters. We start off with five of them, all held hostage for years in Spain, only to have a number reduced to four just when the main action starts to unfold and they are liberated. There are two women: Lily and Helen, and two men: Gary and Piers. We know very little about them: Lily is a helicopter pilot, Helen a mother of a three-year-old daughter Grace, a product of a rape. Piers has some kind of a mental breakdown and Gary is a scientist. And that's as much as we will learn, safe for one or two more details. There just simply isn't enough, forgive me the pun, meet on these bodies to get attached to them, to be able to absorb the unfolding events through their eyes.
As to the action, it is either too fast or too slow, not enough details to absorb the enormity of the catastrophe that happens on the pages of the book. I think that problem is that it tried to tell the story on a global scale. Therefore we have information about almost simultaneous events in USA, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Each treated with similar attention. But instead of concentrating on one, maybe two places, showing changes over a longer time, author hops from continent to continent, from place to place like a mad grasshopper. Instead of letting us get used to characters, get attached to them emotionally so that we can feel what they feel, see what they see, live the action through their emotions, we have a group of people whom we follow around the globe for many years. And I always end up with the same question: why these people, why these places?
To be blunt, for me this book was a good reading but not a satisfying one. It seemed to me to be more of a draft of a saga than first volume in trilogy. There are so many fascinating and only just suggested people and events in that story that beg to be given more prominence, more detail, more meat on the skeleton. Maybe author will reconsider, now all three books been published, revisiting the first tome and writing it into a trilogy itself?
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on 8 June 2016
What happens if subterranean oceans decide to bubble up and start flooding the planet, yeah right. Bonkers idea, but Baxter is a scientist, so he manages to come up with a convincing reason why this is happening. There's some kinda story involving people as well. Some scientists go "ohhh there's a problem, how do we deal with it", and a mad industrialist funds a lot of research and stuff. But each chapter is a 10 or 20 years slot during which the land gets smaller and smaller, and the plot that's mean! OK, it's not that badly written and kept me entertained for the time I read it. There's a sequel, I've read that as well.
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on 29 May 2014
This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is clichéd and the characters are one-dimensional. It is also incredibly tedious. I began to read it because it was chosen by a book club member. After reading about a quarter of it I could not take any more.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 17 February 2012
This reminded me (fairly obviously why) of Flood by Richard Doyle - same scenario - but both authors have treated the subject in very different ways. I enjoyed Richard Doyle's book. I also enjoyed this book, but it was, at times, a bit hard going.

The manner in which we are introduced quite abruptly to the flooding patterns affecting the world is very ingenious - rescued victims who had been held by terrorist organisations for some years are abruptly reintroduced to the world at large - and the world has changed because they have been away from it, so to speak. That's a clever way to introduce what is new to them (and to us) but which has been happening slowly and inexorably to the rest of the population at large. The terrorist victims remain a closeknit group which is also a good way for the author to ensure that we see the spread of the impact of the weather events in a linked (but slightly separated) way.

The book itself covers quite a few years, so we are witness to the events impacting the earth and its climate, and what it means to the people, nations, governments, industries and social fabric of the world as we know it as doom slowly approaches. What could humankind possibly do against an ever-increasing water level? It does make you think.

I admit to being somewhat perplexed throughout, as to where exactly all the water was coming from, but as long as I suspended that slightly nagging question from the back of my mind, the story itself is entertaining - the premise is intriguing, the characters are sufficiently interesting to keep the reader's interest. The sequel, Ark, is in my pile of books to read, so I hope that continues the same intriguing story. I cannot imagine where it will end other than in complete annihilation - the End of all? Have to read and find out.
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on 6 July 2009
The story of a great flood drowning the world is an interesting premise, and could have been a truly fantastic read. Baxter makes a dutiful effort in walking us through the shock felt by the near-Earth's inhabitants when the waters rise and don't subside. I enjoyed the set-up for his protagonists, as they, too, have been separated from this world by a few years and can therefore justifiable be confused. As they learn, we learn, and it helps to avoid exposition dumps (at least in the beginning of the novel).

as we progress, however, it becomes apparent that there isn't really a point to the story, except perhaps 'humans deserve it'. We don't see the human cost of suffering - we're always with the survivors, and they don't seem to spend much time thinking about anyone they've lost. Main characters are killed out of sight, and the constant influx of dozens of new characters, all given equal weight, is disorienting. The human relationships become more and more unbelievable as the story progresses, with mothers refusing to talk to their children even in this drowned world because of who they shack up with, people being passed around like objects, and allegiances changing every chapter. Most frustratingly, a lot of weight is placed mid-way through until the end on the relationship between our protagonist and one of her former hostage friends. A romantic relationship is manufactured out of thin air, and we are later informed that the middle-aged man is in fact in love with the protagonist's niece. Given that the last time we met said niece she was 16, that's a little creepy. (This also follows some other suvivalist also trying to walk off with the girl, a la '28 Days Later'). His 'love' continues through him killing people she loves, and everyone around him tolerating this kind of behaviour because 'he can't help it'.

Meanwhile, billions of people die in between chapters, unmentioned and unnoticed.

Baxter's idea is strong, solid. There was real potential there, especially in the first third. But his relationships are unconvincing, and there is too much pseudo-science here for the book to hold water (!) otherwise. Most of all, he tries to turn a human tragedy into a political discussion by focusing on the most privileged strata, those that somehow always come out on top. What would have been much more interesting would be more of a focus on the less-fortunate, those that have to struggle to survive, rather than simply be affiliated with a multinational.
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on 27 August 2016
I like some of Stephen Baxter's work but this book, for me is a bit too long. The story explores the consequences of a catastrophic flood on the earth, but centres primarily around relationships between a group of former hostages. Unfortunately, the result is a book where in order to string the plot together, there are a sequence of contrived coincidences that are unbelievable. So not his best.
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on 25 May 2015
An interesting book with a good plot. However, it rambles though events and incidents with no apparent reason or justification. I found the characters poorly described. The military characters were poorly researched to the point of being silly. The writer goes to great length to prove his knowledge of London and of science but to the point of distraction.
The grammar is, in places, poor. There are words wrongly used and the spelling is patchy.
Whilst I enjoyed 'The Long Earth' series, this is too drawn out and digressive. I will not be reading the next in the series.
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VINE VOICEon 7 September 2009
This is a plot-driven novel that makes a good holiday read. It is a shame that Baxter struggles with characterisation (indeed this aspect is virtually non-existent). So don't expect any deep psychgological insights - characters are little more than ciphers for plot developments. It is this failing that limits the book's ambitions and prevents it from being ranked alongside apocalyptic classics by John Christopher, Margarer Atwood, Cormac McCarthy and so on. I felt the ending was rather a non-event (clearly a sequel was in mind and this somewhat ruined the potential for any thought-provoking conclusion).
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on 5 August 2008
For some reason the end of the world is rarely terrifying. From even the nastiest plagues, the most ferocious wars, the most apocalyptic asteroid strikes or alien invasions there is usually hope - hope of recovery, of rebuilding, a glimmer of light at the end of a long dark tunnel.
The brilliant thing about Flood is the sheer lack of hope. For once you lose the land you lose everything. Any terrestrial species, however brilliant, is doomed from the moment the waves lap around the highest mountains. Baxter at his hard sci-fi best here, providing a plausible mechanism for an implausible catastrophe. The episodic treatment works well and the characters, although a tad cliched (the grizzled old astronaut, a brace of plucky hardbody female scientists, several annoying teenagers) are engaging enough to carry the story along.
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