Sydney-based attorney Tanya Bower believes that climate change could cause the Ross Ice Shelf to collapse, and that the resultant flood could wipe out half the world’s population. David, her father-in-law, is so convinced of the probable disaster that he persuades most of the Bower family to create a self-sufficient commune, called simply “The Settlement,” in the Blue Mountains. As more settlers join them, the government takes notice and wants to shut it down, apparently fearful that The Settlement will cause public panic. The settlers confront numerous obstacles, including a possible Australian Security Intelligence Organisation agent in their midst, and another community, The Bandstand, that may have a few unfriendly members. Meanwhile, the predicted massive flooding looms, with the estimated date just a few years away. Hallowes opens his book with gusto by giving his strong female protagonist a brief back story—in which the teenage Tanya escapes a life of petty crime to become a successful lawyer—before diving right into the heart of the plot. The first half deals with The Settlement’s troubles, such as an attempted sabotage, as well as its rigorous preparations, including its development of The Academy, which provides military training to settlers who act in the community’s defense. Hallowes generally keeps his myriad characters under control; for example, he represents an entire good-natured Aboriginal tribe with a single character, Derain. He also ensures that most established characters aren’t forgotten. Some other characters, however, get lost in the mix, including Tanya’s two sons, Chas and Didier, both born in The Settlement but largely ignored during the years-long narrative. The inevitable catastrophe takes over the more exciting second half, in which Tanya and others try to stop savage marauders and attempt to make peace with surrounding communities, including one that’s women-only. The ending feels truncated and leaves several subplots unresolved; on the plus side, a sequel would be rife with potential storylines.
A riveting story with a marvelous protagonist, but perhaps a few too many secondary characters.