Journal of the Flood Year is races the reader through a gripping story. The protagonist is the dour and obessesive William Fowke and the story is told entirely from his perspective. Through a series of journal entries that detail his views and conversations we share with Fowke his gradual disillusionment in the veracity and ability of his government.
William Fowke is a monitor, a ranger, who’s task is to record and report on the state of the Wall, a huge dyke, the creation of which has expanded the American land mass by millions of square kilometres. Fowke is passionate about the Wall, his fifth entry is an ode to its extra-ordinary construction as he sits atop the granite 150 metres above the land while the Atlantic smashes against the other side. So when he finds seepage that indicates that the Wall has a flaw he will not cease agitating his superiors to come and fix the problem.
His determination to get action only has negative effects and his career, his ‘marriage’ and his freedom are taken from him. Fowkes’ refusal to stop trying to get action to save the Wall leads to a loss of citizenship rights – no longer one of the included, punishments and indoctrination camps; we start to see that there are more flaws in this rigid, stagnant society than just in the Wall.
The only reason Fowkes is able to escape and continue his mission to save the Wall is through his relationship with Julia. It is a relationship started in a random Telesex interaction. This is another very peculiar aspect of Fowkes society; human contact is only through the medium of machines so touching, sex and birth are taboo and disgusting to Fowkes and the other included. Ely conceived this concept in 1992 and the awful thing is, with the current news about AI sex toys, is it does not seem as strange as it should do. Robots, murids and ursids, are the indefatigable police and enforcers in Fowkes world and they are frightening because they are immune to any appeal.
A clever story though the curmudgeonliness of William Fowkes, with his serial escapes, does wear a bit thin at times. The aim now is to read another David Ely though I note with interest that there is an eighteen year gap between this, his last novel, and Mr Nicholas written in 1974.