Saturday, 20 February 2016

Flotilla - Daniel Haight

In a literary world somewhat over-saturated with Young Adult Post-Apocalypse Sci-Fi stories an interesting and fresh take on the genre can be hard to find. If you’re looking for one then I’d recommend Daniel Haight’s Flotilla, a coming of age story with strong nautical themes. The book is set largely at sea, aboard ocean colonies and yachts and the antagonists are drug runners and pirates rather than zombies or machines.

Themes of dystopia, technology and human self-destruction are present of course but the dominant focus of the book seems to be the people, particularly Jim, the teenage protagonist. Jim is a teenager going off the rails, drinking and partying too much, after a trip to rehab fails his mum packs him off to the colony with his father. Jim may be somewhat of a worst case scenario teenager but the thoughts and feelings he has are instantly relatable as is the complex nature of his teenage relationship with strangers and family, as well as with chores and sleeping patterns. By focusing on Jim the novel is able to tell a grand tale but keep it grounded. Sure you’re average 15 year old is unlikely to visit an ocean based colony and cross paths with drug runners but, if one did, it’s likely they’d handle it how Jim handles it.

You see the world collapse and, as it does, you see Jim grow stronger, accept responsibility. He is forced to experience a rude awakening and you feel sorry for the kid you previously thought was kind of a brat.

Flotilla could ride the Young Adult wave. 
The ocean based setting really gives the book an edge, the life that Dan Haight depicts aboard the Pacific Fisheries ocean colony is truly enthralling, you get a sense of a civilisation developing outside of normal society, with markets, an economy, law, order, corruption, enjoyment. There are restaurants, shops, people living a hippy lifestyle growing fruit and veg and everyone has a job to do. Then there’s the eco-friendly message involved in the way the colony, and the Pacific Fisheries company that runs it, are trying to farm fish in a more progressive manner.

What’s great is that the book doesn’t lecture, it makes points about our world and about the world it is depicting but it doesn’t patronise you or slap your wrist. It is enjoyable, interesting, occasionally thought provoking but never heavy handed.

There are technical errors, issues with formatting and a few more typos than you may expect but from a storytelling point of view the book is sound. The world of Flotilla is an interesting one, real world but different and shown through the eyes of an interesting character. If you’re into Sci-Fi, I’d highly recommend it.

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