George Turner's Drowning Towers (U.K. title: The Sea and Summer) is an apocalypse-in-progress set in a world slowly collapsing under the weight of over population and global warming. Taking place strictly within the narrow confines of Melbourne, Australia, the time frame is both a highly stressed mid-term future (2041), with some additional post-apocalyptic reflections from a further on (2061) recovering future. The book is of interest for being both a very early (1987) global warming warning, and also for making various best ever lists (Science Fiction: 101 Best Novels). It is, at least in Australia, a common subject for academic papers (pdf of one). Written over a quarter-century ago, prior even to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the novel is stunningly prescient on a number of subject matters that would not come to the forefront of worldly concerns until much latter. There are two very loose sequels: Down There in the Darkness and Genetic Soldier.
|The U.S. hardback release cover (also the cover of my copy)
George Turner (1916-1997) is often noted as one of the Deans of Australian Science Fiction. Before becoming a science fiction writer and critic late in life, he was a successful award winning mainstream author. As Wikipedia notes (correctly based on this novel) he is known for his very thorough and detailed extrapolations, and for his interest in morality and social issues. The story here was derived from a short story, The Fittest, that was published in the Australian anthology, Urban Fantasies. This novel won the 1988 Arthur C. Clark Award .
In a future, half of a century from when it was written (1988), global warming, along with some other more localized environmental disasters has collapsed the world economy. Where there once was a third world that the Western economies could ship off their products in return for under priced commodities, now the third world is everywhere. The particular everywhere of this story is Melbourne, Australia. World population has blossomed to ten-billion, and ninety-percent of it, referred to as “Swill” in Australia, is unemployed. In Australia, the incomeless have been put on a minimalist dole, and into gigantic tenement towers. Towers sited with the typical bureaucratic greased palm incompetence, are too close to the rising waters. Thus the American title, The Drowning Towers.
|Thumbnail of very cool original Sea and Summer cover. Larger version is here .