BLIND WAVES by Steven Gould
Tor Books, 2000, Paperback, 350pp, $23.95
ISBN 0-312-86445-0

There's an odd excitement about receiving your first book with the publishing date "2000" in it, like seeing "MM" on the end of BBC programmes instead of the lengthy old string of letters. I was really hoping Blind Waves would set a high initial standard and it does, sort of.

Some time in the near future sea levels have risen by 100 feet. In Gould's novel North America, at least, is coping better than you might expect with the aftermath of such a catastrophe. The Immigration and Naturalization Service has grown to become the USA's second biggest branch of the armed forces, dealing with the impossible numbers of refugees all heading for the high ground.

Patricia Beenan is one of the lucky ones, rich, propertied and with a head full of the Bard, until she stumbles across a sunken freighter with a hold full of bodies. Commander Thomas Becket is a scarred but principled investigator for the INS Criminal Investigation Department, keeping a troubled eye on corruption and political extremists in the service.

It's not an unpromising start and I was impressed by the assurance of the writing. Gould writes with mild understatement in a free-flowing and easy style that I found delightful. The two central characters are very well presented and their blossoming romance is handled with a rare delicacy that makes the whole affair seem so very natural and just…lovely. Gould could teach Mills & Boon a lesson or two!

But what lets the book down is the rather tenuous story that the love affair is draped across. The individual scenes are handled well, whether action, romantic or gustatory, and the background is well thought out - in fact I wish we'd learnt more detail about the oft-mentioned "Deluge" - but the plot is ultimately almost irrelevant, a seemingly rushed "whodunnit" which does a grave disservice to Gould's writing style. This is annoying because I was enjoying Blind Waves for the most part, until I suddenly realised I'd almost finished it and that aside from a (very well realised) grand finale, nothing much else of any consequence was likely to be revealed.

I'm going to read some more of Steven Gould's books because I'm in no doubt that he's a very good writer, but Blind Waves is just a little bit too thin on plot. And one final beef - enough Shakespeare quotes and untranslated Spanish dialogue, Mr Gould!

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