New hard SF novel from the veteran pro (Half Life, 1999, etc.).
Kainui and Kaihapa are twin water-covered planets orbiting a double sun. Kainui was settled by various Polynesian groups—but there any resemblance to Earth ends. The oceans on Kainui are 2,900 salty kilometers deep, the atmosphere features lethal carbon monoxide, and in the one third normal gravity, storms, waterspouts, and tsunamis are a constant hazard—and generate a permanent, ear-shattering roar. Perforce, the tall, thin inhabitants wear armor against the noise and breathing apparatus to keep out the monoxide. They live on floating, living cities that were grown using advanced biotechnology. They grow their boats too, as well as “pseudolife”: engineered floating platforms of jelly that extract fresh water and metals from the sea. Mike Hoani, a Maori from Earth, arrives to study how the various languages have evolved and coalesced since colonization. Captain Wanaka, a trader, takes him aboard her boat, along with her husband and mate Keokolo, and ten-year-old apprentice ’Ao (not their child, according to tradition and custom). While prospecting for pseudolife, one hull of their catamaran sustains damage under mysterious circumstances; they're forced to discard the hull and grow another from seed. Meanwhile, they drift toward the South Pole and a confrontation with inhabitants of an unknown city made of ice—a population that has had little or no contact with the mid-latitude floating cities.
Although Clement's strained attempts to generate a plot are not a success, the real attraction here is the bizarre environment, meticulously set forth in glowing scientific detail.