When The Floods Came by Clare Morrall (book review).

February 12, 2016 | By | Reply More

Clare Morrall’s novel ‘When The Floods Came’ is not standard SF. You don’t really get any feel for the calamity of floods that have swept more of the people in the UK away, let alone the deadly virus that happened afterwards. In fact, other than the lack of people, all you have are the surviving people in Birmingham tenement who seem to talk a lot but not do much else. When one of their number accidentally dies, there is also a lack of emotional content about how they feel about it. Whether this is how the characters cope or something missing in Morrall’s writing, I’m less sure about. However, with a story that is dialogue based, this is a serious omission if you really want to connect to the characters. It’s only later in the story when a friendly stranger arrives called Aashay invites them to a fair in Coventry that there is any awareness that this group are younger than the rest there, although how much younger is never given, but let’s say young adults not teens. You would have thought something in their dialogue might have given that away. Odd nursery rhymes are recited every so often but they come from any of them. You also have to wonder how they were educated.


Anyway, at the fair, where everything is free and not a trace of bartering, they get a bit suspicious when Lucia, the youngest, is being eyed up and they all flee on their bicycles. The only one in pursuit is Aashay, who conveniently backs off when told to. Dodging a storm in an abandoned Amazon warehouse, Dan, its sole occupant also acts a little peculiarly in the night, so off they go again. A few miles away, Boris realises he left his toolbag behind in the rush, so he and Rosia (the first person talker) returns with him and they discover Dan had been killed before returning to their family and home. Asahay eventually arrives and although they think he might be the killer, Rosia lets him in. From here on, there are spoilers.

There are a lot of contradictions. Despite the flooding, electric cable doesn’t appear to have been broken and everything is working, including computer technology like PODs working, which means the telecommunication systems are also working. With a lack of people, you would have to wonder who’s running these utilities and that can’t come from Brighton, the current base of government. At the fair, one of people there says he keeps his printer running from spare parts. Well, that would get unstuck if he hasn’t got a regular supply of ink or ink cartridges. There are also confusing messages with this fair where things are given away and no mention of trade or barter, let alone if a money system still exists. Can a society live such a way when it comes from a trading perspective at least a generation or so back? It would also have helped immensely to know the time period this flooding had actually happened if for no other reason than to figure out how many generations down the line we are from the flood.

Morrall also has a nasty habit of giving reveals just before she needs them. You only find out that the family weren’t originally from Birmingham but from American later in. You’re left forever having to re-evaluating what is going on. Although I agree one shouldn’t always lay everything out in the opening chapters, popping things in rather than establishing is the realms of fantasy not Science Fiction. Making up things as you go along doesn’t show much planning. I’m still wondering where this great plague is that has quarantined the UK. The last place you would want to live is in a city, even if you were immune, because of all the other problems like typhoid and dead bodies.

If anything, I would use Morrall’s book as an example of not what to do when writing a Science Fiction story as nothing from the background is used within the story framework. You could happily set this in ‘The Borrowers’ reality and it would make as much sense plotwise. The characters make a contradictory naivety and stupidity at the same time. When you consider they have been scavenging for some time, you would have thought they would have been cleverer than that. I certainly wouldn’t use this book as a survival guide if the UK had succumbed to the flood that was supposed to happen here.

GF Willmetts

February 2016

(pub: Sceptre/Hodder. 342 page hardback. Price: £17.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-444-73647-2)

check out website: www.sceptre.com

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Category: Books, Scifi

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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