Flood and Fire, by Emily Diamond

Flood and Fire, by Emily Diamond (Chicken House, 2011, 368 pages, middle grade). Sequel to Raider's Ransom.

In the 22nd century, rising sea waters have swamped much of Great Britain. Greater Scotland has kept some vestiges of civilization, while the Last Ten Counties of England have become a technophobic, sexist, dystopia. And bloodthirsty Raiders prowl the coasts, competing with each other for power over scattered bits of dry land among the marshes.

Young Lily has escaped from one group of these raiders, with her friend (the kidnapped daughter of the English Prime Minister) and PSAI, the only functioning computer know to have survived, a machine that was the pinnacle of game playing technology, and which truly has a personality of its own. But escape back to England is a tricky thing--both the raiders, and agents of the Scottish government, are on their trail.

Meanwhile Zeph, the raider boy who had helped them escape, is trying to become the true leader of his clan, facing stiff opposition from his brother (a nasty, bloodthirsty piece of work), and in a position of perilous weakness with regard to the other clans. If he can get hold of the PSAI, and Lexi, his problems will be solved...except for the problem of betraying his friends....

Lily, Lexy, Zeph, and the PSAI, after a rather exciting (and fascinating) visit to post-Apocalyptic Cambridge, make their way to London--a chaotic place where the power of the raiders is greater than that of the government. But a new power has awakened--the automated defense system of the city, set up in the last years when technology was still viable--and it's grasp on reality is shaky at best. Against its high tech robots and mad computer manipulative skills, will three kids and their own computer be able to bring some sort of piece, not just to all the waring factions, but to their own lives?

I found this second book even more riveting than the first--the story felt more tightly focused, and the action begins almost immediately. Part of the appeal is watching the PSAI come into its own, partly the appeal lay in the deeply felt moral dilemmas faced by the characters. And in fact it's the most satisfyingly character-focused adventure in a world of civilization gone to pot I've read for ages--Diamond doesn't belabour the thought processes of her actors, but allows them to become apparent over the course of the action. There's also a very nice cat, as an added bonus for us cat folks.

In short, I highly recommend it! I'm not sure just how well this would read as a stand alone, and there's no reason not to read Raider's Ransom first.

It's solidly middle grade (ie, for readers 10-12)--there are hints of possible romance to come, but it hasn't yet. There is, however, considerable violence and mayhem, that might not be to the taste of the more peaceful child.

Here's another review, at Jen Robinson's Book Page

(disclaimer: review copy acquired in a give away from the publisher)

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