Thursday, October 17, 2019

After the Flood - Kassandra Montag

2019 is proving to be a banner year for fans of dystopian fiction. And for the first time ever, the annual Book Chase Fiction Top Ten list may just end up containing multiple dystopian novels. Already this year, I’ve read three of my all-time favorite novels of that type: Christina Henry’s The Girl in Red; C.A. Fletcher’s A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World; and now Kassandra Montag’s After the Flood. What makes these three so special to me is how effectively each of the authors develops their main characters – regardless of which “end of the world” scenario they have chosen. 

It helps, too, that each of the books explores the adaptability of children who suddenly find themselves living in (or being born into) a world in which just making it to the end of the day can be considered a major achievement. It's little insights like this one that make After the Flood so believable:
"Pearl had to do everything early: swimming, drinking goat's milk, potty training, helping me work the fishing lines. She learned to swim at eighteen months but didn't learn to walk properly until she was three. Instead of walking, she scuttled about Bird (their boat) like a crab. Her childhood was the kind I'd read about in frontier stories, the children who knew how to milk a cow at six or how to shoot a rifle at nine." (page 80)

After the Flood takes place just over 100 years from now after rising floodwaters and heavy rains that sometimes lasted for years have so completely flooded the world that survivors are limited to living in mountaintop colonies surrounded by what has effectively become one gigantic ocean. Governments, armies, and policemen no longer exist in what has become very close to an “every man for himself” world. And that’s why some, like Myra and her seven-year-old daughter Pearl, have chosen to live on their boats , venturing onshore only long enough to trade surplus fish for the necessities they cannot provide for themselves. Myra has already lost one daughter, Row, who was stolen away by the girl’s father when he abandoned the then-pregnant Myra to the floodwaters that were about to flood Nebraska. Understandably, Myra trusts no one now – and she is more than willing to kill anyone who threatens Pearl.

Kassandra Montag
But everything changes when Myra learns from a stranger that Row has been spotted in a slave colony in what used to be Greenland – and that the young girl will soon be moved into one of the large “breeding ships” parked offshore. Now, desperate to reclaim her daughter before it is forever too late to save her, Myra and Pearl begin a new adventure that will only succeed if they learn to trust strangers. Myra knows that her boat is much too small to survive the long voyage into freezing waters and that she and Pearl won’t be able to steal Row back on their own. When they are invited to live with others aboard a much larger vessel, Myra realizes that she may have solved both her biggest problems: now she has a way to get to The Valley and enough people on her side to make Row’s rescue possible. But does she dare tell them the real reason she wants to go to The Valley? And if she lies to them, placing their lives in danger, hasn’t she turned into exactly the kind of person she was so afraid of just a few days earlier?

Bottom Line: After the Flood is what dystopian novel fans are always looking for, a world they can immerse themselves in for a few days – but one they probably would not want to live in no matter how much it fascinates them. Montag doesn’t hit a false note in this one despite my fear that the climax she was heading for would turn the novel into just another run-of-the-mill thriller with a high body-count. I needn’t have worried. Montag is too good a writer to let that happen – and she proves it in After the Flood, her debut novel.


  1. Glad to hear this one didn't disappoint at the end! I'll keep it on my list. :)

  2. I'm not really a dystopian novel fan but occasionally make an exception. This one has me intrigued, will see if the library has it.

    1. I'm really intrigued by them, Cath, especially the different approaches the writers take to whether the good guys can actually survive in that kind of situation in which the bad guys have nothing to fear from government or the law. It usually boils down to a struggle between men of conscience and the sociopaths and psychopaths of the world - and usually the good guys come away damaged if they survive at all. It's all pretty basic, but I can't resist them. And I still think they just may be training manuals for the future the world is headed towards.