As global warming threatens Earth, human scientists encounter an incredible race of sea people who offer help in reversing environmental disaster—but an equally ancient enemy also resurfaces.
This debut novel’s conceit is that all of humanity’s mythology about undersea folk—mermen, King Neptune, and the like—is true. The same microbe-laden meteorite that seeds life on Earth initially brings forth a race of scaly, humanoid “Aquatics,” who settle in the Atlantic and Pacific. Amazingly long-lived and almost godlike in their sufficiently advanced science that’s indistinguishable from magic, Aquatics safeguard the planet’s progress for eons (minimizing harm caused by the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, for example). A pair of them adapts under duress to terrestrial life, evolving into Homo sapiens. Finally, the Aquatics emerge from their polar hiding place to confront mankind in 2037 because of one problem they can’t handle alone: climate change. Though land dwellers have switched to cold fusion (and settled international conflicts via a one-world government), unhealthy carbon emissions have raised sea levels and greenhouse gases to extinction levels. King Kronos of the Aquatics asks the cooperation of Dr. Nova Zorian of the floating lab complex Sea City to coordinate a joint operation to restore balance to the atmosphere. But Hyperion, an ancient Aquatic banished because of his villainy, who has infiltrated elite human society, uses the crisis to make his ultimate grab for power. This novel may be Al Gore–worthy in its trendy concern about 21st-century global warming, but its heart belongs to the sci-fi fantasy pulps and funny pages of earlier eras, when manly men laughed at danger, lady scientists turned out to be beautiful, and bad guys cackled insanely. As marine beings undergo painful adaptations and DNA mutations out of the water, there might have been a chance here for a sci-fi riff on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” but, alas, that doesn’t happen. Instead, Nolan offers plenty of action and monsters/mutants (shark women and octopus-wolves, among others). The tale’s climactic battle seems to owe more to Marvel Comics’ Jack Kirby than to the Mediterranean lore of the ancient Greeks and Phoenicians.
An apt beach read about Aquatics, even if the slam-bang heroics go over the top.