Book Review: Floodland – Marcus Sedgwick

floodland-marcussedgwick

Surviving in a devastated world…

Zoe, left behind in the confusion when her parents escaped, survives on the island of Norwich as best she can. Alone and desperate among the marauding gangs, she manages to dig a boat out of the mud and gets away to Eels Island. But the island, whose inhabitants are dominated by the strange boy Dooby, is full of danger too.

The belief that she will one day find her parents spurs Zoe on to a dramatic escape in a fable of courage and determination, set in the watery landscape of England as it could be if the sea levels were to rise.

 Okay.

Picture this.

The world, as you know it, has changed.

Shocker.

England, previously more or less a haven of temperate weather – with the occasional warmer summer or frosty January to liven things up a little – has surrendered to the inexorable (not to mention terrifying) progress of climate change, and has been reduced to a few piecemeal, unconnected land masses surrounded by a frankly rather uncomfortable amount of water.

So what do you do?

You run, obviously, as soon as it becomes clear that this problem is neither minor nor easily solvable. Where you run doesn’t matter – to your parents, to safety, to higher ground, and eventually to the boats that come to rescue you – as long as you do.

But what do you do when the boats stop coming?

That, among others, is the question that Floodland answers, and, trust me, it ain’t pretty.

~

Zoe, Floodland’s young heroine, is forced to fend for herself in an increasingly unsafe world after her parents are rescued, and she is tragically left behind. At first, life goes on as normal – or as normal as it can be, with her parents gone, and danger creeping steadily in – but as the water keeps rising, communication with other islands dwindles to nothing, supplies run low, basic infrastructure comes to a grinding halt, and, to put it somewhat concisely, things go from bad to worse.

 Quite aside from the engaging, tense plot, in which the danger is very real, very present, and, after the initial fear caused by the rising sea levels, almost entirely human, Floodland is an intelligent and assured foray into the human psyche by an author that genuinely knows his stuff and isn’t afraid to use it. Sedgwick’s novels delve constantly into difficult topics and tricky questions, investigating aspects of the world we live in that we would, arguably, rather not think about quite so explicitly. It’s unapologetic, relentless, and masterful, not to mention refreshing.

In fact, the only reason – yes, for once I have exercised restraint and have found one solitary reason – that I failed to give Floodland a 5-star rating is because I felt it was a little sparse. On the one hand, the stripped-back style was refreshing, leaving nothing but the taut, charged movements of a group of people forced consistently to extremes to survive in a world that had turned against them. But on the other hand, however, it made it exceedingly difficult to understand the characters, or believe their motivations. As a reader, I felt divorced from the action, and alienated from Sedgwick’s world.

Additionally – I apologise, but this is actually a connected point, so I’m totally justified – I felt that Sedgwick created his futuristic, vaguely post-apocalyptic world solely with broad strokes. There was no detail in the descriptions, little conversation, and, in short, not much to go on. Again, it was somewhat justifiable in that the reader is restricted to the main character’s perspective, but on the other hand, it is also justifiable to wonder if she might have known a little more than the reader is offered, given that some time passes through the duration of the text. Ultimately, it felt little like reasonable suspense used to amp up the tension, and more like unnecessary scarcity.

Finally, with an interesting premise and plot, a unique style, and characterised by Sedgwick’s typical bravery in regards to difficult topics, Floodland is, at the very least, an interesting read.

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