In many ways, this book is classic Baxter – thoroughly researched, interesting extrapolation from good science, engaging story, and even the annoying “”meanwhile, back at the ranch”” news clip technique he seems to love (this time, less annoyingly presented). Unfortunately, this time he largely misses the boat. The characters are, as usual, interesting and realistic, but not really likeable, and don’t resonate much with the reader. The plotting is as carefully constructed as usual. There’s lots of explication presenting easily digested science.
The story doesn’t really click this time. The situation (rising waters threaten the planet) is well presented, but you just don’t care much. As noted, you don’t expect to get too close to any of Baxter’s characters, but this time he’s pushed the disinterest too far. The group of hostages introduced in the first chapter stick together, but it’s never really clear why (or at least, so implicit that you’re not convinced). The motivations of a key central character (a billionaire) are brushed aside in a few introductory sentences, and scarcely seen again. Mr. Baxter seems to have taken an interesting concept, and sleepwalked through the writing.
All, in all, a readable, but disappointing run of the mill disaster novel from one of the field’s top hard science writers. The story continues in Ark. We can hope that this will be a return to form.