The year 2177 and the Earth died five years ago. Those humans who were able to make it to Forever, a generation space ship, are now all working hard to help Forever be a fully functional ecosystem. Imagine a ship roughly 100 kilometers long and 23 kilometers in diameter with an entire world built inside—one that has phosphorescent plants and glowing metals to simulate sunlight to grow crops. That also has livestock, rivers, mountains, and weather. People build houses and work the land by hand, or with the help of a horse. Mail gets delivered weekly by hot air balloon. Imagine people who can dig their hands in the dirt and make plants grow to their whim. The goal of Forever is to keep humans alive long enough to reach the nearest potentially-habitable planet, a trip that might take 500 years!
Forever is semi-sentient, with a world mind that is comprised of Immortals, three of the key techs who helped build the ship and who have merged consciousness with the AI of Forever. Those folks are Lex, Ana, and Jackson. Through virtual space, they can interact with some of the ensemble cast of this story. Key humans on Forever, besides the Immortals, are Aaron and Andy, Jackson’s living son and granddaughter—they have the enhanced abilities of being able to physically tap into the world mind and cause plant growth and regulation of the biosphere. They can also merge consciousness with one another and give mental psychic energy to one another. Eddy is another key mortal who has no special abilities, but who had been a soldier on Earth. He now operates as kind of policeman—and when he’s sent out to investigate a bunch of slaughtered sheep, that’s when life on Forever gets weird.
This Rising Tide is a book I’d recommend to fans of sci-fi. While there are many LGBTQ+ folks in this story, it’s not a romance, and we never see anything more than kissing on the page. It’s also the second book in the Liminal Sky series.
The world-building here is interesting, with a mostly-sustainable world within a spaceship. I say mostly because the precipitous demise of Earth meant Lex, Ana, and Jackson couldn’t get all the raw materials necessary to make it fully sustainable. Instead, they guide Forever into the paths of asteroids that are mineral-rich, and Forever’s digestive mucous slowly brings in materials that will enrich the environment. So, Eddy’s taken aback when he and Andy discover that the sheep-killing marauders have carved a separate living space in the void that sat below some mountains in Forever. And, they are equally shocked to learn the architect of this hellscape land was Davian, the man who took down Transfer Station, a spacestation that had served the community building Forever. He’s had a powerful person under his control all this time: Jayson, Jackson’s long-missing and presumed-dead younger son. Jayson’s got the same skills at tapping into the world mind as Aaron and Andy, but he’d been honed as a bioweapon for the past twenty years before arriving on Forever. Davian’s Utopia includes a lot of obedience, pain, and Jayson’s unexpected offspring, who are legion.
The entire story, which spans roughly two decades of time aboard Forever, is a battle between the forces that want to keep humanity going in an egalitarian way, and Davian’s crazed plans to generate a world order that suits and benefits him. It was really interesting how the Liminal children of Jayson, who were conceived by forced breeding and suffer many indignities due to their paternity, play an important role in the new world order—making life easier and safer for the regular humans. One of importance, Marissa, becomes a leader in her own right, and helps defeat Davian more than once.
The story itself is really three long-ish novellas that begin at different time points. In total, my reader clocked it at 500+ pages. There are lots of interwoven points of view, between the Immortals—who morph and change—the mortals, the Liminal kids, Davian, and Jayson. So, expect a lot of cut-aways and jostling. I struggled sometimes with the timelines because there were, I think, some mis-edits that had me questioning the years that had passed. Also, the cast is ginormous, which was a challenge to keep organized. That said, for a book this size I had little trouble following the general pathway. It’s not a surprise when Davian continues to surface; he’s the nemesis of the book throughout. There’s good pacing and world-building that boggled my mind. As I didn’t read the first book in this series, I can’t remark on what got everyone to Forever, but experiencing the unique challenges of life there was truly engaging. It made me think about the state of our world now, and how we might all end up in the dire future Coatsworth elegantly lays out. I felt truly transported in this book, and was glad to see the best of humanity triumph.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.