The Fiction Fox
Review: The Deluge - Stephen Markley
Genre: Literary Fiction, Climate Fiction
Published: Simon & Schuster, January 2023
My Rating: 4/5 stars
"I put in earbuds and listened to the sound of rain. I thought about how there will always be something about me that finds happiness too painful."
The Deluge is a tricky novel to put a rating on. Throughout my reading, I went through a lot of emotions with this book; from a deep, quiet melancholy for the freakishly realistic future the author puts in front of us, to sympathy and care for the characters, to utter annoyance at the squandered potential this book had for greatness.
The best way I can put it is this: there’s a 5-star novel in here. It’s just a shame that it’s about 300 pages long, and buried in between 500 pages of weaker narratives, and unnecessary repetition.
The Deluge sets out to be a climate epic, both in size and scale, yet it’s often at its best in its smaller moment of character work. Some of these characters stories were genuinely moving and meaningful to me, and I’m personally glad I read the book just for those narratives. I don’t think it justifies it’s 900 page length though.
On the strong side we a fantastic narrative voice and some incredible sentence-work. It’s beyond any doubt that Markley is an incredibly gifted author with a love for language. Then there’s a few brilliantly memorable characters, like Tony, which the novel opens with. He’s a maverick biologist investigating ocean-floor bacteria, and publishing on climate science. His story was easily my favourite and had me hooked from page one, which starts with an anti-eco-activist sending him an anthrax-threat by mail, until the final and very emotional scene which almost had me in tears.
I was also a fan of Kate and Matt’s narrative, although Kate as a character was absolutely insufferable to me, and I’m surprised so many readers (and the author himself) seem so fond of her. The perspective of Ashir, a brilliant mathematician struggling with his sexuality and an illness in the family, was also very interesting in the beginning, although I felt his neurodivergence became a bit gimmicky later on.
On the weaker side, we have the glacial pacing and some of the other perspectives I could’ve done without, and mostly the repetition when it comes to its messaging. The sad part is: there are some very important messages in here, and the passion the author feels for them really shines through. My fear is just that the only people who are willing to commit to a 900 page eco-fiction novel aren’t the once that need to be preached on these messages.
Overall, I’m personally happy I read The Deluge, but I honestly wish it had been about half the length. 900 pages is a lot to commit to, so be your own judge whether you think the time investment would be worth it for you, based off the above.
Find this book here on Goodreads.