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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tides by Scott Mackay

Tides by Scott Mackay. Amherst, NY: Pyr (Prometheus Books), 2005. ISBN: 1-59102-334-3.

The Library of Congress subject heading for this science fiction novel is “Life on other planets—fiction.” The basic idea behind the story is a familiar one to scifi aficionados. Although we aren't actually given the evidence until nearly the end of the story, all along we have to assume that we are on a planet that was settled or colonized by humanity thousands of year before. More than 60,000 years before, if the current inhabitants' own history and tradition is to be believed. But their once advanced civilization collapsed, and the current generations have no idea that they came from elsewhere, but think they evolved here.

But none of that is particularly relevant to the actual story. We have as our hero a sailer on a planet where the two moons raise enormous tides out at sea, when they come into conjunction. Tides that are so staggeringly huge that the waves are hundreds of feet in height. Waves that can destroy any of the primitive sailing ships currently in use. Further, the planet is mostly water, and the one continent on which humanity exists is small in comparison.

But as the story unfolds, a scientist notices a plume of ash high in the heavens, and assumes that there must be a volcano out there somewhere across the world. Teaming up with the venturesome sailer, they set out to find this other land. And eventually they do, although not without encountering and overcoming numerous obstacles, adventures, and mishaps. And what do they find there, but naturally the original indigenous intelligent species that inhabited the planet before humans arrived. And they aren't particularly friendly, with good reason, having been driven off the one fertile, hospitable continent to this remote, barren volcanic desert continent on the opposite side of the planet.

There are certainly aspects to the story that are far fetched, not particularly believable. But they don't really matter. The story is told so convincingly and well that we are delighted to be along for the ride, and are more than willing to suspend our disbelief. Hab, the sailer, is believable as a character, and is a wonderful protagonist with whom we can identify from the “get go.” A truly compelling book. Highly recommended.

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