Review of ‘Blackfish City’ by Sam J Miller

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This politically and psychologically insightful epic is set in a gloriously-realised post-ecological/social collapse floating city named after a flooded Inuit town. The novel has some of the best character introduction/development arcs I’ve read in a while, and the only one that’s had me shouting ‘Oh no!’ at a sequence near the end – see if you can guess which bit when you’ve read it.

To say too much about how the desperate, disparate characters come together to solve the mystery of a semi-mythical woman who arrives in town with a killer whale and a polar bear would be a massive spoiler; suffice to say few novels I’ve read manage to create such a convincing feel of a new community created from the ruins of the old. It’s often bleak and brutally honest, particularly about the complicity of those in our time in the destruction that has befallen… well, everything.

Yet it also has a unique optimism, summed up in the very science-fictional observation that despair felt at the state of the world by tourists from the richer areas is in fact an inability to cope with loss, mainly of life possibilities determined consciously or otherwise by entitlement. The younger, more raw characters see it differently; that theirs is a future difficult to imagine but filled with possibilities that are stronger for it.

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