Two thumbs up for Stations of the Tide by Michael Swanwick. Science fiction.
After I finished Dune I picked up Stations of the Tide, which was an unintentionally funny back-to-back read, as Dune is about desert ecology and Stations of the Tide is a very, very wet book. It takes place on a planet being evacuated in preparation for its bicentennial inundation: an ice cap is melting and soon the planet will be an ocean. Stations is a book of weird and wacky delights. The main character, known only as the Bureaucrat, is sent to the planet’s surface to investigate the illegal use of technology. You think you know where it’s going from that, but trust me, you don’t. There’s magic (maybe? definitely?), a sentient briefcase, a con man villain, a surreal passage that may or may not be a drug trip, many other surreal things which I think are “real” in the context of the story, and several tantric sex scenes which I guess the blurb warned me about but I ignored it because it seemed too weird? But nothing is too weird for this book. It’s as if Iain Banks wrote a “Culture” novel on mushrooms…and I mean that in the best way. Anyway, I highly recommend it to SF readers who can flow with the tide (pun fully intended).
He bowed deeply and swept out a hand. His movements were all jerky, distinct, artificial. “Welcome, dear friends, countrymen, and offworlders. It is my duty and pleasure today to entertain and enlighten you with legerdemain and scientific patter.” He cocked an eyebrow. “Then I go into a little rant about the mutability of life here, and its myriad forms of adaptation to the jubilee tides. Where Terran flora and fauna – most particularly including ourselves – cannot face the return of Ocean, to the native biota the tides are merely a passing and regular event. Evolution, endless eons of periodic flooding, blah blah blah. Sometimes I compare Nature to a magician – myself by implication – working changes on a handful of tricks. All of which leads in to the observation that much of the animal life here is dimorphic, where means simply that it has two distinct forms, depending on which season of the great year is in effect.”
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