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Friday, February 18, 2011

Lifeless Prose Sinks Sedgwick's Watery Dystopian

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As global warming slowly melts the ice on the Earth's poles, the planet begins to flood. People move to higher ground, waiting for the water to recede. But, year after year, the seas continue to rise, sinking cities, swallowing dry land, and forcing survivors to crowd together on the tiny islands that are all that remain of the old world's continents. On Norwich, the settlement where 10-year-old Zoe Black lives, supplies are dwindling. The ships that once brought food to the island and shuttled away anyone who wanted to go to the mainland no longer come. Without them there's no escape, no hope of hiding from the rising tide.

Zoe, who was mistakenly left behind when her parents fled on the last supply ship, lives on her own, keeping away from anyone who might do her harm. Plenty of people would, too, if they knew what she was hiding. Unlike anyone else on her island, Zoe has a boat. The small vessel, which washed up on the shore during a storm, is finally seaworthy, finally ready to help Zoe get to the mainland and find her parents. She knows the same storm that washed her little boat ashore might have sent her mother and father to a watery grave, but she won't rest until she knows for sure.

Out on the open ocean alone, Zoe searches desperately for land. The spires of a crumbling cathedral beckon her to Eels Island, a place ruled by a ruthless teenager who steals her boat but offers her his protection. Not knowing who to trust, Zoe must figure out a way to survive in a world where civilization can be just as perilous as the wild waters that surround it. As Eels Island crumbles into the sea, Zoe knows she must escape. She has to find her boat, row like mad for the mainland and search for her parents. Before it's too late. Leaving will mean challenging a brutal gang leader, making a dangerous ally, and risking her life - again - on the perilous seas. The prospect's terrifying, but Zoe Black has to try, has to survive.

Even though Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick is probably the mildest dystopian book I've ever read (it's geared toward middle graders), there's just something inherently eerie about water devouring the Earth. It provides an excellent backdrop for this kind of novel, even one as poorly written as Floodland. The premise of this book intrigued me, obviously, but the writing drove me to put it down twice before I finally decided to plow through it, anyway (it's only 148 pages). The dialogue is cringe-worthy, as is the constant telling-not-showing style and the awkward prose. What I can appreciate about this novel is that, unlike most dystopians, it never gets too bleak for its young audience. I still wouldn't hand it to anyone under 10, but, despite the blah writing, Floodland does provide a good introduction to the genre for young readers. It's positive, hopeful end makes it especially appropriate for middle graders. If they can wade through the lifeless prose, that is.

(Readalikes: The subject matter reminded me of Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, X-Isle by Steve Augarde and a little of Dark Life by Kat Falls.)

Grade: C-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

1 comment:

  1. What a shame it's so poorly written. The synopsis sounds so hopeful.


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