On a stormy night, a paediatric hospital is swept away in a flood. While the rest of the world is drowned under seven miles of water, the staff, patients and visitors at the children’s hospital are saved, kept alive by an angel and replicators, which make medical supplies and food.
As the residents come to terms with their loss, they also realise their responsibility: to rebuild society and install a sense of working order, all under the dutiful eye of the angel. When a disease begins to strike the adults, panic sets in.
This is a vast novel (615 pages), which could veer into the ridiculous but Chris Adrian, an author and a paediatrician in New York, has an ability to bring together the surreal (an overbearing angel who can be seen but not heard; the devices that can make “apples out of old shoes”) with the intricacies of relationships. And it keeps you asking: how will this end? It makes for a captivating novel.
It was released in the US in 2006 and only released in the UK by Granta last week. Props to the publisher for bringing it to the UK market and enlisting the skills of cover designer Marian Bantjes, who conveys the novel’s themes of isolation and despair. It’s a powerful, thought-provoking story and one that is well worth lugging around (or downloading for Kindle).