"Ingeniously configured and persuasively detailed, this biosphere has heft..... Refreshingly original, this dystopia delivers more than a dash of hope." ~Kirkus Reviews
"Shyback has created an all-too-believable future with a consummate eye for detail and realism in this, her debut novel." ~Cindy Matthews, author of Defeating the Slushpile Monster .
"Aqueous is the kind of book you simply can't put down and promises to be the beginning of a great adventure, as its cliff-hanger ending portends a series, perhaps with the potential of The Hunger Games." ~Chris Stoate, Director at Oakville News Aqueous, Book Review: Embracing Change and Embarking on a new Career - Oakville News
“Aqueous is a coming-of-age story set against the harshly exotic backdrop of a life beneath the sea, in an all too possible post-apocalyptic future… A fascinating debut, and one that will make you think." ~Kerry Anne King, bestselling author of Improbably Yours
Heat, droughts, floods—the catastrophic effects of global warming may soon render our planet uninhabitable. Jade Shyback’s exciting debut novel, AQUEOUS (Red Hen Press; May 2, 2023), is set in the not-too-distant future on the brink of ecological collapse. Much like 2014’s massive bestseller Station Eleven, AQUEOUS starts bleak but is a largely life-affirming story that asks the reader, “How would you move forward in a brave new world?”
At the moment of apocalypse, six-year-old Sunniva is scooped up by a couple en route to Aqueous, one of three underwater merstations engineered by and for the elite. She is forced to leave her mother, and only surviving family member, at the scorching surface.
Sunniva, renamed Marisol, spends the next decade in Aqueous working to become the first female Cuvier, an elite diver. She out competes her classmates at the Trials, a series of grueling physical and mental tests, but doesn’t earn the assignment. Marisol blames misogyny, but soon learns her parents meddled in the decision. They cite her safety, but Marisol believes they want to keep her from a sordid truth at the surface. This is where the book ends, but where Marisol’s bigger story begins.
Shyback skillfully switches back and forth between Marisol at age 6 and Marisol at age 16. In doing so, the reader can see how her early experiences at Aqueous have informed her present life. With only a dozen or so peers, the story’s secondary characters are crucial to Marisol’s development. They are interesting, round, and push Marisol, and in turn the plot, forward.
Perhaps the most impressive element of AQUEOUS is Aqueous itself. Shyback has built an intricately engineered post-dystopia utopia, a “starry planetarium of twinkling station lights,” filled with lush gardens, lavish auditoriums, and world-class athletic facilities. The beautiful outer world offsets the characters’ intense inner worlds. The teens are desperate to prove their worthiness. And for the adults, any misstep could compromise the survival of the whole community. Everyone walks on (genetically-engineered) eggshells.
Shyback’s imaginative story has an ending that will leave readers hungry for a sequel. What is going on at the surface?
Kathleen Carter | Kathleen Carter Communications