Flood by Stephen Baxter
In essence, Flood is an end-of-the-world disaster story presented from the perspective of a group of several individuals. The Earth is experiencing rainy, stormy weather and rising sea levels - but not in a way that coincides with accepted models of climate change. The story begins days before a surge from the ocean overwhelms London's flood barriers, covering it in water.
This is ďscience fictionĒ in the sense it takes place in the near future. There is also a minor thread in the book involved in trying to understand the cause of the rising waters. On the other hand, unlike most near future disaster stories, a project to stop the disaster is not a significant part of the story. Relatively early in the process, there are some projects to keep fairly minor rises in sea level out of London and other strategic locations. Thereís movement of people to locations farther above [todayís] sea level. Thereís a project to build a big ocean liner ship for a few thousand people. But basically, the story is the rising waters relentlessly bringing life as we know it to an end.
The main characters have a wealthy benefactor who helps them avoid the worst consequences of the rising flood during most of the book. We see the growing disaster from a somewhat protected vantage point. We follow the personal dramas of the characters with this view of the disaster as the background.
From a science fiction point of view, what is Flood? Itís not a cautionary tale of climate change. Not only does the book tell us that climate change is not the cause of the flood, but the flood is greater than what climate change could lead to. Itís not about science or technology significantly beyond what we have today. Itís not a scientific project to avert disaster. Itís a speculative future, but not one well founded on scientific plausibility. Even stretching the definition of science fiction, itís not alternative history, psychic powers fiction or supernatural fiction. Of course, I donít intend to say that if it doesnít have much SF content, it canít be worth reading. It just has little to satisfy a craving for SF.
The book begins with a gripping scene.† The early part of the book pulls the reader in.† However, it doesnít have enough to keep many readers that involved.† Thereís personal drama that will be at least satisfactory for some readers.† Some readers will find some novelty in watching the oceans covering one landmark after another.† But it will be lacking for other readers. †The downhill slide of society and technology, and deaths of over 99% of the human race - with little hope for the future Ė may not appeal to some readers.
The story isnít helped by the questionable nature of the supposed cause of the flood. Weíre told that some unspecified process has caused water in the Earthís mantle to come to the surface in such quantities that even Mount Everest is covered. There is a scientific basis to believe there are some areas of water down in the mantle. There isnít really a basis to believe there is enough water in the mantle to cover every inch of the Earthís surface with several miles of water. Nor is there a very good explanation for how all the water would rise against gravity to the surface and not find a way to go back down again.
Once Mount Everest is covered by water, weíre not given any further indicators of how much more the waters do or eventually will rise. It begs certain questions (which I donít claim to have the answer to). If water covered the Earth up beyond the peak of Everest, what would the air density and pressure be at the waterís surface? Would this force a significant amount of the Earthís atmosphere far enough from the Earthís center of mass that it would escape into space? What would the consequences be for the ozone layer protecting humans?