The Deluge, by Stephen Markley**

Markley’s debut novel, Ohio, came out in 2018, and it was one of the year’s best that I promoted at the end of the year. I loved it so much that I was convinced that anything this author wrote would be golden. So when Simon and Schuster invited me to read and review his next book, The Deluge, I was delighted. But although I am grateful to the publisher and Net Galley for including me, I cannot bring myself to finish this thing. I suspect Markley may have bitten off more than he can chew, because it’s kind of a mess.

To be fair, I have only read the first twenty percent, but since the book is 900 pages in length, that’s a chunk.  After all of that, I can’t even keep the characters straight, let alone bond with them. One character, Kate, seems to hold the most promise, but just as I begin to develop interest, we transition to a different character—or news article, or whatever—in a manner that feels abrupt and jerky. Some of these characters appear more than once, and other may have, but I’m not even sure of it. There’s one horrifying rapist that speaks to the reader intimately and in the second person, and he gives me the heebie-jeebies so badly that I am glad to move on to someone else. That guy—whatever his name is—and Kate are the only two I can identify, sort of. I’m a language arts teacher. Good luck to everybody else.

I do understand that the overall message has to do with the environmental ruin that is marching toward us at an alarming pace. Markley isn’t wrong to sound the alarm, although it may in large part be a case of preaching to the choir; the most concerned among us are probably the most likely to read this book. At the same time, some of us have been following this horrifying debacle since the ‘70s, or the ‘80s, and when one is already virtually hyperventilating with alarm over this issue, reading this novel doesn’t do much good.

But more to the point, fiction is an excellent medium to promote an urgent political cause, but it’s only effective when the other story elements are outstanding. When the format doesn’t do justice to the characters or provide clarity to the reader, the effort is wasted.

I read other reviews saying that if one patiently reads the chaotic scramble at the beginning, eventually it will all come together and make sense, but honestly, if nothing makes sense two hundred pages in, then you can stick a fork in me, cause I’m done.

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