Flood was a book I’d read a couple of years back, before I was blogging (flogging?) books. It was an interesting idea, that underground oceans were down emptying upwards, that the world was slowly flooding, deeper and deeper until savage fights were breaking out around the last few mountain tops, and that as those went under the final survivors (floating on their garbage-roped rafts of trash) watched a bright flash as an off-stage space ark fired off its warp drives near Jupiter, throwing a set of human candidates towards a distant star system.
Ark is the companion book to Flood, the story of how the ship is constructed, who goes (and who stays) and what they find when they get to their crap-shoot colony.
Like I said, I had read Flood some time ago, and Ark starts pretty abruptly – I can almost imagine Baxter tossing the final page of Flood over his shoulder and shouting “Next!” as he rolls a fresh sheet into his typewriter (such a dated image!). I had a dim memory of characters, a couple of hazy scenes from before, and suddenly we were into the first reel without so much as a character list or a warmup chapter or anything. Many of characters I finally remembered as the story got rolling, a couple I figured it wern’t too important, but yes, it was catch-up for most of the book. That doesn’t mean you can’t read Ark as a standalone. But just don’t think anyone is going to help you.
Still, I rather liked it – it conveyed the desperation of the launch, of readying the ship while masses of desperate humanity are pressing the fences, while the Mormon state of Utah is attacking, of candidates getting pulled off the launch while favorite-sons and -daughters of rich backers are forced on. And, of course, once the warp drive lights and the ship runs out into the great dark sea of space, then the tensions begin to mount. It’s a multi-year haul towards their unknown destination, petty feuds erupt into ship-threatening wars, and it’s touch-n-go for a number of scenes.
And what happens when they get there? What do they find?
Heh. Read it yourself.
I will say that Baxter’s comments on life, the universe, and everything (including alien cultures) is sad and believable. It’s worth the price of admission alone.
I can’t recommend reading this beachside (too spooky) but its worth cracking the cover, somewhere high and dry.