Book review

Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick (2000)

Imagine that all the worst predictions of global warming have come true. The polar ice caps have melted and the sea level has risen, slowly but inexorably, until most of low-lying eastern England is under water. Norwich is an island and Ely Cathedral, which was originally built on a hill 68 feet above flat fenland, rises now on a tiny island about one mile wide. This is the scene set for Floodland.

We meet Zoe who has become separated from her parents in the last evacuation of Norwich, and left behind. She lives in decaying warehouses on the edge of the waters, foraging for old tinned foods and collecting rainwater to drink. She finds a small boat, more or less seaworthy, trapped in the oozing mud, and determinedly digs it out. She sets off in search of her parents. But there's a lot of water out there for one girl and a small boat. She fetches up on the remote and sinking Eels Island where there is a barbarous community, and to find out whether she ever gets off Eels Island and whether she ever finds her parents again you will have to read the book.

I think there are some brilliant ideas in this book. It is written in very simple language:

Spat was armed with a sword very similar to Dooby's. They splashed wildly in the shallows, thrashing about with their weapons. Munchkin stood nervously at the water's edge, as if trying to decide what to do. Rowing away from the awful fight, Zoe had a perfect view of it all. Suddenly Munchkin jumped into the sea, and started to swim for Zoe's boat.
'Wait', he spluttered. 'Take me with you!'
Distracted by this, Spat and Dooby paused in their struggle for a second. Then Dooby snapped out of it. He shoved his sword into Spat. Spat slid into the shallows, which reddened around him.

This is a thoughtful view of a meltwater future and the scenes it creates are powerful. Like Zoe, I would have liked to know more about what happened to all the people:

'Why aren't there more people here?' Zoe asked.
'What do you mean?'
'Well, if the country got smaller when the sea rose, then there ought to be more people squashed into what's left.'
'I don't know,' Munchkin said. He shrugged. 'Perhaps they wanted to get well away from the sea.'

One of those books that you will think about for a long time after you have read it.

What can I read next?

If you enjoy books set in the future you might like to look at this one by Nina Bawden:

Or this one by Lois Lowry:

The strange background scenery reminds me rather of this one by William Nicholson:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

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