A fun mash-up of the sci-fi & noir crime thriller genres, Depth by Lev AC Rosen has one of the most original and interesting settings I’ve seen in awhile: a far-future New York City left waterlogged to the twenty-first floor of the city’s great skyscrapers after the Earth’s oceans began to rise.
When the waters swallowed the Eastern Seaboard the United States government and everyone else who could moved inland, finally settling behind the safety of the Chicago coastline (although the Appalachian archipelago still has some pricy resorts). But intrepid New Yorkers stuck it out by remaking their city, stringing bridges between the buildings and mooring large ships like cruise liners and tankers in the open spaces between.
Perhaps because of the obvious comparison to the biblical “flood,” what’s left of the U.S. has become very conservative and religious, with “decency laws” requiring women to wear skirts, among other things. Although still a part of the union, New York is far enough away from the mainland and hard enough to get to that these laws are not enforced.
So much for the sci-fi. On the noir side, the main character is Simone Pierce, a native New Yorker and one of the city’s best private eyes. Hard-boiled and with serious trust issues after her mother abandoned her as a child, she’s friends with the Deputy Mayor, avoids the handsome “good guy” ex-boyfriend pining away for her (those trust issues!), and uses a techno-wizard to mine cyber data. There’s bad blood between her and the regular police force, which her father was a part of before suddenly taking early retirement.
If this main character bio sketch sounds a little … network or basic-cable TV crime show … don’t worry about it. The characters are fun and the plotlines move at a good clip as Simone’s investigations take her around the wonderfully-described watery Big Apple. She’s working a case, trying to nail a possibly cheating husband, when another job lands in her lap. There’s a foreigner from the European Union in New York, looking for mythical “dry to the bottom” buildings that would prove the theory that the government tried to plan ahead to keep the city connected to the mainland. There are a lot of wealthy and powerful groups interested in finding these tunnels, if they exist.
I can’t say much more than that without spoiling the fun. And I did find this to be a fun read, perfect for the beach or a lazy weekend. I’m not sure what the author’s intentions are, but there is more than enough concept here for a series of stories set in this fascinating waterlogged world. I found the whole idea of Midwestern “flyover” states becoming what was left of the U.S. (no mention is made of the West Coast, but one can only assume it is also under water) and remaking the country in a much more conservative fashion, particularly intriguing.