Tuesday, July 03, 2018


I just finished reading this one (ISBN 978-0380786015), and I have to say I WAS A LITTLE PUZZLED AT FIRST.   I expected this to be an epic of PISCATORIAL LOVE, like T.J. Bass's The Godwhale or maybe Swim To Me by Betsy Carter.  I didn't expect what I got -- a multi-generational family saga of Naked Apes TRYING TO AVOID THE WATER AT ALL COSTS.

It's a funny kind of novel.  It's what they call a FRAME story, about an actor travelling out to the archaeological "dig" at one of the towers mentioned in the title. You get to it by boat and you can walk around in this high-rise, at least the parts that are still above sea level, because the icecaps have melted and Australia is consequently a lot smaller than it used to be.  This complex, built by the ocean, has been inundated and long since abandoned.  One of the apartments has been made into a kind of museum.  The archaeologist in the boat has written a novel about a man who lived in this apartment while the water was still rising, and the actor is reading her story to see if he can work it up into a stage play.  (Typical for frame stories, we spend almost the entire book in the novel written by the archaeologist.)

And what are the people in this story doing?  By current standards -- fish AND human -- they have it totally bass-ackwards.  Somehow, it's all been swapped around in this book so that the jobless poor are herded into seaside high-rises with not enough living space, and not enough of anything else, either.  Everything is wearing out.  Food is scarce.  There are no extras of any kind.  Everything and everyone is grubby and rank-smelling.  If you want something repaired, you'd better do it yourself or go without.  Richer people live up on the highest ground they can, away from the damp.

When I look at the high-rises by the ocean NOW, with their sunken marble bathtubs, wall-sized TV sets, "smart" refrigerators, air conditioning, microwave ovens, waterbeds, gilded bannisters, built-in shelving, security systems, marinas, cabanas and full wet bars -- even swimming pools down by the beach  -- ALL REPORTED BY OUR OPERATIVES WATCHING IT UNFOLD FROM THEIR WALL-SIZED AQUARIUM TANKS -- well, if I still had hands I would be scratching my head in puzzlement.  

The author is clearly putting an equals sign between GETTING WET and THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.  Which is true of course, but not the way HE means.  The few times anyone gets wet in this story, it pretty much means they're DESPERATE and HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE, and the price they pay is HORRIFIC.  They come up to the surface gagging, if not vomiting, and far, far dirtier than they were when they went in the drink.  The author makes clear this is traumatic, not freeing.  

Fish?  DON'T MAKE ME LAUGH.  There isn't a fish to be seen once in the whole story.  Even in the nostalgic past, when old people look back and remember going to the beach for fun, there's not a fish anywhere in the scenario.  

The author makes clear that the water is filthy and contaminated because of the HUMANS, art least.  But it seems not to have occurred to anyone that the water might be cleaner farther out from the shore, or that there might be resources available to them in the water even though dry land is pretty much SHOT.

Nobody even seems to consider turning into a fish.

Tragic.  Truly tragic!


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