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A series by Stephen Baxter
about an apocalyptic global flood
, based on the theory that there are deep subterranean reservoirs of water locked up in the Earth's mantle. What would happen if all this water started coming up out of the planet's core
The first novel, Flood
, came out in 2008 and follows the lives of four Fire-Forged Friends
who've been through a shared traumatic ordeal. They are still struggling to pick up the pieces of their lives when mysterious floods start happening all over the world
. As the floods get even worse, they make a pact to always keep in contact with each other. This starts becoming exceedingly hard as the floods reach apocalyptic levels, threatening all of humanity.
A second novel, Ark
, came out in 2009. Roughly picking up near the end of Flood
, it follows the development of one of the secret "Ark" projects and it's mission to preserve the human race. In contrast to the relatively grounded Flood
is distinctly more sci-fi in nature, hewing closer to Baxter's usual content.
A trilogy of short stories followed the series, Earth two
and Earth Three
were published in Asimov's in 2009 and 2010, while Earth One
was published alongside the other two in the collection Universes
in 2013. Set 400, 1000 and 10,000 years after the novels they combine together to form a Distant Finale
Not to be confused with the British Disaster Movie Flood
, nor with the Halo Expanded Universe
novel The Flood
This series provides examples of:
- Absent Aliens: Though no direct evidence is ever found, there's tantalizing hints of ancient activity by aliens. When the Ark arrives around Earth II they detect certain unnaturally straight landscape features. No buildings, but possibly the ancient footprints of quarries. They also discover the planet lacks any kind of easily available, minable material in the crust, implying someone had already mined everything. The star system in Earth II also has an anomalous lack of certain asteroids, implying that possibly a space-faring civilization had already used them up for resources. It's speculated that many advanced civilizations have already risen (and subsequently fallen) in the few billions years before Earth life developed, meaning mankind is a bit late to the party. Later on this is possibly subverted when Venus discovers an alien signal in deep space while en route to Earth III, though she doesn't mention it to anybody and it's not mentioned elsewhere in the book.
- After the End: Shown more in Flood, but some of Earth's global flood is also depicted at the beginning of Ark and later, when Kelly and her crew return to the now-fully-flooded planet.
- Alcubierre Drive: In Ark. Ark 1 is actually composed of two hulls connected with a tether, rotating around each other to generate gravity. Interestingly, due to how the ship's drive works, every jump is a Blind Jump: the destination is calculated beforehand, but once the ship enters warp, there's no way to drop out of it or even see what's happening at the destination prior to arriving.
- All Planets Are Earth-Like: Despite specifically looking for Earth-like planets, due to the limits of planet-finding techniques, Earth II and later Earth III subverts this. It's like Earth in nearly every way...except it rotates tipped on its side, like Uranus. Then Earth III, when they finally get to it, is discovered to be tidally locked to its Red Dwarf sun, so the same side permanently faces the sun. Also, it's larger than Earth (so heavier gravity) and due to the sun's light peaking in infrared, all the plants are black.
- America Saves the Day: Seemingly averted. The US is portrayed as one of the last countries to not only stay intact but also have something of a functioning government. Though it too crumbles once the flood reaches the Rockies. But then there's the Ark...
- Apocalypse How: Starts as a Class 0, and gradually starts ramping up through the scale as the flood reaches higher and higher. Eventually ends up as a Class 4, as the waters cover every available bit of landmass, turning the Earth into an Ocean Planet. It's implied that the few humans left over will either eventually go extinct or will eventually evolve back into an aquatic form to survive.
- Apocalypse Wow: Lots of vivid descriptions of various catastrophe's, including the flooding of London after a surge of water overtops the Thames Barrier.
- Apocalyptic Log: Between certain chapters are excerpts from a character's digital "scrapbook" that present blog-like entries on various world events over the course of the flood.
- Arranged Marriage: Of a sort. On the Ark, since there's so few people, the crew members are obligated to find someone to couple with and have a child. They don't have to love each other or even necessarily like each other, but they have to procreate.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: Kelly's family. Her father is a callous, mono-maniacal man who pushed his daughter relentlessly to be better than the competition so she'd ultimately get on the Ark. He would constantly criticize her, and in fact his first words to her when she and the rest of the crew from Seba return to Earth after 30 years is "I knew you'd screw up". Then Kelly's son, Dexter, hates her for the fact that she abandoned him on the drowning Earth when he was two just so she'd be able to join the Ark. After she left, his father was killed in the various riots to wrecked the remaining society on Earth.
- Blind Jump: Of a sort. The kind of warp that allows the Ark to travel faster than light has to be calculated prior to the "jump". Once the warp is initiated, the people inside the warp bubble have to wait until the warp is finished. Meaning that once you've entered warp, there's no changing course or "dropping out", and due to the relativistic effects of FTL travel, you can't really see what's happening at your destination.
- City in a Bottle: The children born aboard the Ark (and the Halivah sub-ship) start to develop a mentality like this, partially due to Zane's lunatic ravings but also due to the fact that they were born on the ship and have never known any kind of life outside it.
- Conspiracy Theorist: One of Zane's alternate personalities is this. He believes the whole Ark mission is a lie and that the whole thing's either an experiment or there is no outside world and the ship is the whole universe. He justifies this by taking random coincidences and claiming that they're evidence everything is just a fake story written by an uncreative/sloppy writer. His theories ultimately lead the ignorant/naïve shipborn crew to stage a disastrous coup attempt.
- Cosy Catastrophe: The earliest stages of the flood were treated as this; for example, as New York City slowly starts flooding, native New Yorkers pretty much just slog through the water to continue their jobs.
- Covers Always Lie: The cover of Ark shows a gleaming, smooth, silver rocket taking off from some kind of gantry on the ocean. The actual launch in the novel is on land, the "ship" is basically two grimy reused engine tanks tied together and are still inside the building they were constructed in...and, oh yeah, the ship is launched with nuclear weapons, meaning anyone without a couple miles of the launch site would be obliterated by the launch.
- Crapsack World: Pretty much what happens to the Earth as the rising sea starts mixing with all the chemicals and pollution humans normally keep on land. Not to mention the horrible conditions refugees face once they get to the overcrowded higher grounds.
- Discussed Trope: With Casual Interstellar Travel. Near the beginning of the book is a meeting of various rich/influential people about how the Ark Project will work. They bring up and discuss various methods for interstellar travel, slowing ruling them out one-by-one due to various unrealistic requirements.
- Decoy Protagonist: Ark starts off from Grace Gray’s point of view as she’s inducted into the Ark program. Then she meets Holle Groundwater and the novel jumps back in time to show Holle’s life story prior to that point. By the time the story catches back up with the present, the novel is now fully about Holle instead of Grace, and Grace then becomes a background character for the rest of the book.
- Disaster Democracy: Politics on the Ark initially start off like this, with someone elected "Speaker" to direct and hold ship-wide meetings. Laws would be agreed on case-by-case bases and would become "ship law", and major decisions would have to be agreed to unanimously. This whole thing, of course, gets jettisoned when things become more dire later on...eventually culminating in Holle taking over as de facto totalitarian leader.
- Downer Ending: In Flood, Humanity pretty much drowns. The main character grows old on a refugee raft, watching ignorance reign over the dwindling human population as new generations of children are born in a Crapsack World Ocean Planet, unaware of everything their ancestors lost.
- Also in Ark, though YMMV: By the time the Halivah has finally made it to Earth III, after traveling 100 light years and spending nearly 40 years getting there, after going through all the heartache and strife they experienced during the journey, after having made so many sacrifices and hard choices...they find that not only is Earth III nothing like Earth (it's tidally locked to its sun and is colder than Earth even on the side permanently facing the sun), they only have a single one-time shuttle left on the ship to use to get people down to the surface, and it can only take a limited number down. The rest of the crew has to stay on the ship (meaning they can never leave). So, in order to maintain genetic diversity and give the people on the surface the best chance of creating a viable colony, they send all the children of the ship, along with three adults to supervise and teach. The worst part is that no family members are allowed (for maximum genetic diversity), meaning all the children will never see their parents or siblings again. The book ends as the shuttle lands on the surface and the kids see the Halivah wink out of existence as it engages it's warp for locations unknown.
- Earth Two A female military dictator has seized power on the titular planet and annihilates the last records of Earth out of a belief they should not be "chained to the past." While Earth Two's lack of metals prevents star travel, it is revealed in Earth one that when the first visitors from the third human colony Earthen visited the world the new culture now known as the Xians captured the ships. They then set out to destroy all human knowledge of the past, and devastated the settled galaxy before they were finally stopped.
: The three follow up short stories, Earth Two
and Earth One
form this with Earth one
revealing that The Halivah eventually established another colony in a brown dwarf star system, ten thousand years later humanity had created an interstellar civilisation, including the three worlds and dozens of colonies. An expidition goes in search of the origins of Humanity and eventually locates the drowned Earth. Human descendants are discovered who have evolved into non-intelligent aquatic forms, as well as evidence in the form of an Apollo Mission plaque that confirms that Earth is the lost homeworld.
- Earth That Was: Since Earth was completely flooded in Flood, it becomes this for the characters in Ark. Subverted when ,after finding Earth II isn't really that hospitable, some of the crew decide to return to Earth despite knowing that it's flooded.
- Endless Daytime: Near the end of Ark, when Grace Gray and Wilson land the shuttle with the children on Earth III, someone points out that it looks like morning. Wilson points out that it'll be a permanent morning, since Earth III is tidally locked and doesn't rotate with respect to its star.
- Explosive Decompression: What happens to the ship Halivah when the young generation of shipborn crew stage a mutiny. They believe that the idea they're in a spaceship is a lie and that they're actually in some kind of social experiment. To "disprove" this, the leader of the rebellion, a woman named Steel, decides to unscrew one of the hull plates and take it off in public spectacle, to show everyone that they're not really on a spaceship. This, of course, goes horribly wrong and nearly kills everyone on the ship. along with spurring Holle Groundwater to seize power and institute a survivalist totalitarian rule in order to prevent the same thing from happening ever again.
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: Of the "Warp Drive" variety, using the real life idea of an "Alcubierre Drive" as the basis for how it works. Basically, the ship itself never goes FTL, at least relative to the space around it. Instead, it stretches the space behind it and compresses the space in front of it, similar to how the universe itself expanded faster-than-light during the "inflationary" age.
- Fire-Forged Friends: The main characters of Flood have a Thicker Than Water connection to each other after spending four years together as terrorist hostages prior to the flood.
- Giant Wall of Watery Doom: Averted. The flood slowly inches up, taking decades.
- Played straight in few isolated incidents, but justified: the weight of all that water compresses the land beneath, which sets off a calvacade of earthquakes and tsunamis. This is eventually what causes the British goverment to collapse, when a mega-tsunami takes out most the island.
- Generation Ships: The Ark (and it's sub-ships) weren't exactly intended for this, but various aspects of this trope begin to come into play as various children are born on the Ark in-flight...and eventually, enough time passes for their children to start having their own children.
- Global Warming: Accelerated, due to the flood.
- Subverted with regards to the cause of the flood. As one of the scientist characters rightly points out, there's not enough water on the surface of the planet, including the poles, to cause a flood of the proportions in the novel. It's actually due to underground reservoirs of water being released from deep within the Earth's core.
- The Great Flood
- Happy Place: In Ark, one of the crew members of the Ark gets addicted to the "HeadSpace" simulator, using it to escape her crappy existence on the ark to live in the simulations of her memories of happier times.
- I've Come Too Far: Kelly's reason for abandoning her husband and two year old child on the drowning Earth in order to have a chance to make it on the Ark, since she'd been training all her life for it.
- Karma Houdini: Several characters throughout Ark do terrible things and never quite seem to face any consequences or come-uppance for it.
- Kelly abandons her husband and two year old child on the drowning Earth for a chance to make it onto the Ark. While leader of the Ark, she enacts a brutal punishment via mutilation, which causes her to lose her leadership position. However, she never faces any backlash for this, and even maintains a modicum of her power. After she convinces part of the crew to split the ship and return to Earth, they arrive only to find the planet completely flooding and its capacity to support life failing, as the oxygen in the air is getting almost too low to breathe. But instead of having to live a bleak existence floating on refugee rafts for the rest of their lives, Kelly and the crew are taken in by the members of Ark 2, a deep-sea settlement where Kelly's son Dexter, the son she abandoned, is. Sure, Dexter hates her, but in the end she still gets to live on Ark 2 in relatively comfort/security.
- Wilson, after he stages a coup and takes power from the above character, ends up being a corrupt leader. He forces the crew to kowtow to him and do lewd favors for him, and it's implied that he's even somewhat of a pedophile. When a major mutiny threatens his rule and he might be killed, he escapes on a shuttle unharmed with an underage concubine. Then when the shuttle turns out to have been sabotaged, he manages to escape its destruction by jettisoning in a spacesuit. He gets recaptured by the ship...and then faces utterly no consequences for his actions or his role in causing the mutiny (and the deaths it caused) because his skills are too valuable to the ship's mission. To top it all off, when the ship finally reaches Earth III, he's one of the few adults chosen to go down on the one remaining shuttle, despite the fact that he's the reason there's only one shuttle left in the first place. The reason? He's the only pilot who can fly the shuttle anyway, and he's one of the few remaining adults who has memories of Earth and what being on a planet is like (experience none of the shipborn children have).
- Let's Split Up, Gang: In Ark, after the ship reaches Earth II and finds that it spins like Uranus, on its side, meaning life would be very hard there, they have to decide whether or not to stay on Earth II, continue on to another planet they discovered dubbed Earth III, or return home to the original Earth. Since the crew is split almost evenly on the issue, they decide to just literally split up and go their separate ways.
- Lost Common Knowledge: The new generation born on the drowned Earth have no knowledge of what "dry ground" is like; everything they've ever experienced has just been life on rafts. Also, the "shipborn" children of the Ark have only ever known zero-g and the Ark. To them, "gravity" and a world outside the Ark are abstract, foreign ideas.
- The Needs of the Many: In Ark, the reason for many of the horrible decisions the various leaders of the Ark mission have to make; in the end, they have to do whatever it takes to ensure everyone's survival (on the ship, and most likely, for all of mankind as well).
- Pocket Dimension: In Ark, due to the complicated physics of how the warp bubble around the ship works, the Ark is essentially in a pocket dimensions when it's traveling FTL. From the inside, everything looks normal, but from the outside nobody would be able to see the ship because the Warp Bubble is actually microscopic.
- Ocean Punk: In Flood, what the setting gradually turns into, as the flood reaches higher and higher and more refugees start taking to rafts and boats. Becomes full-blown "Mad Max on water" towards the end of the novel.
- Rape Leads To Insanity: In Ark, Zane's abuse as a teenager leads to his Split Personality disorder (below) and his eventual suicide.
- Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Several of the characters in Ark will spontaneously launch into long speeches filled with poetic and nuanced explanations...and no one bats an eye at this - It's Purple Prose applied to the dialogue. Somewhat justified in that most the crew are very intelligent people who've been trained from childhood for the mission, but still...who the hell unironically drops the word "quiescent" into a scientific debriefing of a planet they're in orbit around?
- Ruins of the Modern Age: In Flood, refugee camps survive by diving down to plunder cities that have been drowned by the floods. Quickly becomes untenable as the floods become so deep that a deep-sea diving vessel is required just to get to the flooded-out cities.
- Sequel Hook: The last line in the Flood: " What is Ark 2?!"
- Then, in Ark: Towards the end of the book, in a very short (five or six paragraph) chapter, it's briefly mentioned that Venus, the ship's navigator/astronomer, discovers an unmistakeably extraterrestrial signal in deep space. This comes out of left field for the reader, since all indications in the book thus far are that any aliens in the universe were of the Absent Aliens variety and have all died out or are so distant as to be practically nonexistent. Venus decides not to mention her discovery to anybody else...and then it's never brought up in the book again.
- Settling the Frontier: The whole Ark mission was designed around this, with the original "Candidates" for the crew trained in the various skills they'd need to create a colony on a new world.
- Single-Biome Planet: What the Earth eventually becomes.
- Small Secluded World: The bulk of the various "ship" sections of the plot. The ships are relatively small, cut-off from the outside universe due to the warp effect, and have to, by necessity, be self contained.
- Split Personality: In Ark, this happens to Zane, who develops multiple personalities as a coping mechanism against the stress caused by his emotionally abusive father and, later, sexual abuse by a senior member of the Ark Project team (and subsequent denial/admonishment by his father when Zane tries to reveal it to him).
- Teenage Wasteland: Invoked several times throughout Ark. When the Ark first launches, its crew is barely into adulthood; most of them are 18 - 20 years old. Later the novel ends with the settlers of Earth III ending up being all the children about the ship (with a few adults to supervise/teach), since only a certain number could land and the crew wanted the colony to have the best chance of surviving.
- Truman Show Plot: In Ark, the shipborn generation of crewmembers on the Halivah are led to believe by Zane that they're not really on a ship in space, but are part of some kind of twisted experiment...or that there possibly isn't even any kind of outside world at all. This culminates in a coup attempt where they try to remove one of the hull plates of the ship in order to prove that there's not actually any kind of deadly vacuum outside. This ends badly (see Explosive Decompression above).
- Virtual Training Simulation: The "HeadSpace" simulations in Ark are a kind of virtual reality. They can even simulate sensations if the user climbs into a special body-suit. Used during the Ark's voyage for the crew's entertainment, and later for planetary training (since the shipborn children have never been on a planet or even experience gravity).
- Warp Is A Scary Place: The Ark travels faster-than-light by creating a "Warp Bubble" around itself which transports it to its destination. The Warp Bubble can be arbitrarily large (to contain the ship) but woe betide anyone stupid enough to try and leave the bubble...the edges of the bubble, being warped spacetime, will shred anything to a molecular level. But hey, it creates a nice lensing effect on the stars outside making astronomy easy while inside the bubble!