by Martin Simons
Cities at Sea is set 1000 years in the future, a time when the world is mostly covered with water, and cities have been built on huge rafts which float upon the seas.
Sal, who lives on the Sydney raft, visits Shanghai, the largest raft of all, hoping to locate Jezzy, a genetic scientist who has been doing research into genetically altering humans to give them gills. Sal wants to be like a mermaid, free to roam the oceans.
Sal eventually moves to live in Jezzy’s laboratory on the Shanghai raft and undergoes the process of genetic modification, becoming one of Jezzy’s “sea sprites”. Acceptance of this genetic change is met with great opposition from the general population and so Jezzy and her sea sprites break off their section of the Shanghai raft and float away.
As the modified humans raft is not equipped with all the necessary equipment and structural soundness to travel the oceans safely, it becomes damaged. Jezzy and the crew, with Sal playing an important role work to rescue themselves.
Cities at Sea was an interesting and imaginative look into the future at what the world might be like after the seas rise due to global warming. The world’s issues of racial discrimination, poverty, disabilities have been solved. Everyone has the same skin colour, everyone has a job and contribution to make to society, disabilities and disfigurement can be repaired. There is no crime as the penalty for such is marooning of the offender, which is tantamount to a death sentence. Life is regulated and routine
The scientist Jezzy changes Sal into a new species, capable of reproducing offspring like themselves - human, but amphibian - able to live both in the water and on land. She does this by finding people who have some latent genetic information that can be stimulated to cause ears to change back into gills. This could only be believable if one believes in evolution. That is the purpose of fantasy though, isn't it - to create worlds where things can happen that are not possible in the real world. It is a very intriguing idea to think that humans could be genetically modified in order to allow humans to breathe under water. It would certainly be one possible solution for global warming.
Martin Simons writing in this novel was light and entertaining. Although there were references to sexual intimacy, there were no explicit descriptions. The creates a perfect world where there are no illnesses, injuries/amputations can be repaired, poverty is nonexistent - Utopia. Yet the main characters are still looking for something. I think this is a statement about humanity. No matter what we have, there is always something more that we are searching for.
The solution that the characters come up with for the sinking raft problem opens the doors at the end of the book to a possible sequel.
I gave this book a rating of 3 stars.
Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own.