The book starts in the year 2016. It begins superbly with the main protagonist, Lily, bound and gagged in the boot of a speeding truck. Her and some other hostages are being held in Spain after the country has pretty much broken down. They are then rescued by a billionaire called Nathan Lammockson who takes them under his wing. After their five years in captivity, the world has become a strange place with rising water levels and flooding in London.
Then the London barrier is overwhelmed and the city is pretty much screwed. From this moment onward people really start to understand the threat posed to human civilisation. As the water keeps rising people are forced to ever higher ground. This is not global warming, it is something else and the rise may not stop before the land runs out.
I liked this book, it reminded me of the ‘cozy catastrophe’ type of novels written by people like John Wyndham. The book is structured as a serious of jumps in time spanning decades. The main characters are a group of friends that spread over the planet and meet occasionally to swap info. This works pretty well although it sometimes feels a bit too much like a device to simply blast out a load of information. The science is apparently pretty solid and there really are hidden reservoirs of water deep under the land.
Where the book really gets good is in the disaster moments the characters get caught up in. When there is a storm surge and a huge wave rolls through London the story really comes alive. Another great moment is a gunfight in a sports stadium in the Andes mountains.
Unfortunately there are not enough of these moments. Baxter skilfully portrays an epic tale of global disaster with events occurring at locations ranging from Tibet to Peru but as the principal characters are shielded by the billionaire, the reader always feels a bit distanced from the action. There is also the fact that the characters are slightly cliched and never really come alive.
On the whole though, I found this a highly enjoyable read. Unlike a Wyndham novel the disaster truly feels global. But also unlike a Wyndham novel, the characters lack depth and the story lacks an element of charm. If you like disaster novels give it a go though, it’s remarkably good fun.