In Marsh’s future-set novel, tough, freedom-loving, and eco-minded sailors patrol Earth’s seas against greedy, corrupt empires.
SF/fantasy author Marsh envisions a late-21st-century future in which, following a second American civil war (which ended mysteriously and inconclusively), a large number of environmentalists and democracy lovers flee the greedy, corrupt United States—basically a vassal of Russia—to form the Mariners, a seagoing, island-centered nation-state. Mariners, aka “shipsies,” are considered rogues, occupying much of the Pacific with their ragtag, resourceful navy. They have cleansed their waters of plastic and maintained sustainable sea life (even saving the whales) but face incursions from mammoth fossil fuel container ships and voracious fishing fleets. Then from the treacherous USA comes a surprise envoy, Congressman Arnold Drummond, claiming to want a peaceful mission, in cooperation with a U.S. Navy warship, to investigate a mysterious, sunken complex. The site is rumored to hold advanced, perhaps apocalyptic, weapons cached before the war, and coordinates have already leaked to the criminal underworld. Navigator Kara Nkosi, adopted into Mariner society as a human-trafficked little girl and now a fierce defender of its values, distrusts the Americans but finds herself in dangerous straits as the recovery mission involves powerful entities. Marsh’s believable worldbuilding only improves this climate-changed dystopia. The well-conceived Greenpeace-with-guts heroes make compelling characters. The cli-fi aspects aren’t overdone and neither are the cyberpunk trappings of enhanced humans. Pages turn faster than a propeller when it’s time for battle stations, and action comes on brisk and fiery. Belowdecks, though, lies genuine conviction about this slightly altered tomorrow—a place where morally bankrupt corporate states rule like pirate kings and a major holiday is “Putin Day.”
An oceangoing SF/techno-thriller made especially seaworthy by its depth, not just its depth charges.