Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Deluge

The Deluge was the first book by Mark Morris I ever read. He is most prominently the author of several Dr. Who novels, which would have gone right past me. I know Dr. Who is a huge deal in England, but I've never gotten it. Probably a cultural thing, like eating jellied eel.

The book starts out in post-apocalyptic territory. With little preamble, in the wee hours of the morning London (and presumably the rest of the world) is flooded. Since it happens while most are asleep, the only survivors are those who live on the upper floors of high buildings, or who were above the water line for other reasons. We follow the flood from the point of view of Steve and his thirteen year old daughter Abby. After a few days, the water recedes, and the survivors venture out into a devastated world. Most people and animals are dead, and the water and the silt left behind have left almost everything ruined. Steve and Abby set out to leave London before the inevitable typhus and cholera sets in, and to reach Scotland, where Steve’s ex-wife and son live. Along the way, they are joined by other survivors, among them Max, a young black man who survived because he was chased onto a hospital roof by “Nazis” (I had a little trouble believing the gang could chase Max through the hospital without being stopped, but maybe that happens in England all the time), Libby, who was sailing at the time of the flood, and my favorite character, Sue, a policewoman. Sue knows where there is a cache of weapons, so their band is one of the few that is armed. (A major difference based on locale – if it were in America, everyone would be armed.)

At this point, the book seems to be following a familiar path, but there is a chilling twist. Some of the survivors are not really human. They are creatures that can mimic anyone (a la The Thing) and feed on humans. They quickly become the greatest danger the group faces, and their numbers quickly diminish.

The book is well-written, with deft characterization, the most important facet of writing a good horror novel. By the end, I found myself feeling unsettled, a rare experience considering how much horror I read. Some readers won’t like the number of questions that go unanswered. What cause the seemingly impossible flood? What is the significance of the blue lightning? What is the nature of the creatures stalking the survivors? The book certainly cries out for a sequel.

Despite the questions, this is an outstanding book, and I will be certainly looking for more by Mr. Morris.

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