This is a story about an earth where climate change has transformed the planet into a watery wasteland and the people have been split into two factions; those that live on the surface, poor and uneducated in the main, and those that live in the ring that circles earth, rich and educated. The story focuses on Pearl and switches between her past, growing up on the surface, and the present where she resides on the ring, about to give birth. In the beginning she recalls her time in the tropical forest and dusty village with dreamy nostalgia, scampering through the flora and fauna that has grown out of control and swimming in the river to keep cool.
A new mythology has grown up to support the new world and her father passes down the laws of survival:
“Never venture somewhere if you hear a call you don’t recognise. Never make friends with a small animal: it’s mother may come and eat you. Never go into the forest when the birds are not singing; never go when their shrieks are so loud that they are all you can hear.”
The animals have changed and mutated into massive, dangerous creatures and there are talks of huge leviathans in the oceans. The locals talk of the Green Winter that changed everything. The swimmers, through which the book in named, are a semi religious cult that live on the surface. The people are banned from swimming in the ocean but the swimmers climb over the wall that encircles their home to swim in the great ocean. They talk of ascending to come great ocean diety and many don’t come back, either on purpose or simply drowning.
The book switches half way through to the story of Arlo, Pearls husband who she meets at the end of part one. He is from the ring and has been paired with Pearl as an arranged union. This is a normal occurrence since ringer women can’t have children. The story then moves from Arlo to Pearl and back again as their relationship breaks down under the strains of the opposing cultures. Arlo explains the terraforming activities that the ring has imposed on Earth to try and save the planet and this conflicts with everything that Pearl knows about her world. The story ends up being about truths, half truths, religious fables and folklore, who said what and what can or can’t be believed.
Marian Womack describes herself as a writer of environmental science fiction and this interview talks of her influences including the classic Wild Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.
Publisher: Titan Books
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