I am glad I read the edition of The Drowned World with an introduction by Martin Amis. I found Amis’s essay about the book and how it fit into history enlightening. The idea of prescience in literature is not new, but it was a fresh concept for me.
The Drowned World is one horrific view of a world destroyed by man’s negligence. Of course, the world isn’t destroyed, but man’s ability to continue living there is drastically impaired. As always, nature adapts in amazing ways.
This was a short book about an Earth that no longer has cities, in which most of the land has been swallowed by water and the temperature is ever-rising. Fifty some years ago, this was probably not a common idea. With the rise of Global Warming and other environmental concerns addressed by the media every day, the idea of water encroaching our own habitat is less far-flung.
There was some excellent imagery throughout the novel, but one that struck me was: “So his descent into the phantasmagoric forest continued, the rain sweeping relentlessly across his face and shoulders. Sometimes it would stop abruptly, and clouds of steam filled the intervals between the trees hanging over the waterlogged floor like diaphanous fleeces, only dispersing when the downpour resumed.” (p. 192) I could easily imagine taking this walk with Kerans as he escapes.
This is certainly not a character study and many of the characters could have been fleshed out into a longer novel. Instead, this was a cautionary tale and a reminder to me that the idea of rising water levels is not new.