Review: Cities at Sea by Martin Simons

Title: Cities at Sea
Author: Martin Simons
Pages: 181
Genre: Science fiction, adult, futuristic
Series? No
Publisher: Martin Simons (2012)
Rating: 2/6 – It was okay

Synopsis from NetGalley: A thousand years hence, all the major cities of the world are at sea, floating on huge rafts, using ocean currents to navigate. Sal, a young girl on the Sydney raft, training as a navigator, visits Shanghai which is the largest raft city of all, on holiday. She hopes to find the famous genetic scientist, Jezzy, who will modify her body to give her gills. She wants to be like a mermaid, free to live in the sea with the fish. She does meet the old woman but when she leaves her laboratory is arrested as a deserter and mutineer. She is flown back to her home raft for trial. After a tribunal she is released after all to join Jezzy and like many others, is modified as she desired. There is a strong public reaction against Jezzy’s operations. In fear of being marooned to die on land, Jezzy and her young changelings break away their section of the Shanghai raft away drift off independently. Sal finds a lover and gives birth, but a violent storm damages the raft severely and they struggle to avoid sinking. They can survive only by beaching themselves. Sal, the young navigator, plays an important role in achieving this. The remnants of a land based tribe are encountered but more dangers must be faced from marauding gangs of pirates. The rafters make plans for rebuilding their city and returning to the sea.

My Initial Thoughts/Rambling: I was initially excited to read this book, because of the premise, but then I saw who had written it. Simons was the author of Jenny Rat, which if you remember didn’t turn out so well for me. But, I persisted, and actually finished this one. It wasn’t as difficult as Jenny Rat, but it wasn’t the best either. Possible Spoilers Ahead.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What did I think about the characters? There really was no development or distinction at all between these character. The only one who had a semblance of a personality was Darien, and he was rarely mentioned. All the voices blended together, and I ended up not caring about any of them because there wasn’t anything to identify them. Nothing special, no little quirks, no back stories at all. Whenever they did show a bit of emotion or personality, it was very inconsistent.

And the concept and plot? The concept was what drew me in! Floating cities after a worldwide warming trend that melted all the ice? It had so much promise, but just didn’t fulfill my expectations beyond the thought. Simons had a great idea here, but it felt like he forgot to go further in the world building aspect. I didn’t know much of the history, or the new culture, and ultimately I was really disconnected from everything. The one thing that was made very clear was the societal expectation for frequent, unconnected sex. And in that case, I might as well have read Brave New World. 

The plot was slow at first, taking a long time to explain Sal’s desire to become a mermaid. By the time we hit the climax (where I was actually kind of interested to see how the changelings would interact with the land-lubbers), there was about twenty pages left. I felt like Simons chopped off the falling action and denouement part of the plot pyramid.

What about the writing style? It was really stilted and awkward most of the time, varying between blunt, military-ish manners of speaking to effusive, over-melodramatic displays. I felt like I was being whipped back and forth between the two most of the time. 

Anything else you’d like to add? I have a strange sense that my download was missing a good chunk of the book, but now that I look at the Amazon Kindle version it says there’s really only 185 pages. There wasn’t any mention of marauding pirates in the book, despite what the synopsis said. I pulled through to finish the thing, and I really wish there would have been more of an ending rather than just the cut off that left nothing with an end.

Find the book at:


Barnes and Noble:

Book Depository: Unavailable



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