In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield (2009)

In Great Waters cover
But wait! I hear you cry. Didn’t you say Kit Whitfield’s World Fantasy Award-nominated novel isn’t really “justifiable as sf? Answer: yes, yes I did, and now I’ve changed my mind, in part thanks to revisiting Not Before Sundown, in part because I could talk about how the Deepsmen are portrayed as evolved creatures, about the fact that the novel’s universe is clearly impersonal, or about how it’s extrapolative alternate history in an sfnal tradition, but mostly because it’s just that good and I want to include it here. So there. My review:

To my mind there is a powerful Darwinian undercurrent to In Great Waters, not just in the portrayal of the deepsmen — their lives, red in tooth and claw, and the impression that they are water-adapted humans, part of the ecology, not magical creations — but in the clear understanding throughout the book that both Henry and Anne are unfit only to the extent that they do not match their environment. So perhaps it would be more apt to say that what they do is to open up a new niche in which they can live safely. Or to emphasize their strength, and say that like Whitfield’s first novel, Bareback (2006), In Great Waters is ultimately a story about ways of being human, however alien you seem: a reminder that more than reading or writing, the greatest act of creation available to us is living.

(In my defense, I did at least say that I wished it had been submitted for the Clarke, so that the judges would have had a chance to decide what they thought.)

Please email me with your top ten science fiction novels by women from the last ten years (2001-2010). All votes must be received by 23.59 tonight, Sunday 5 December. Your own definition of science fiction applies.

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