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"All at once, the staggering immensity and primeval savagery of the Earth and the Universe penetrated my brain with cataclysmic impact."
Down to a Sunless Sea is quite an old book from the 80's however much of what is said at the start of the book rings so true. The book is written from the view of Captain Scott, a pilot. The US is in turmoil; 2 years after their oil ran out the streets are run by the people and the army in certain areas. Despite knowing oil was running sparse, America had continued guzzling it up in large cars, not believing it could be true. Other countries however were more sensible about this issue. The dollar is now a useless currency not worth anything, and Americans are only allowed out of the ruined country if they have a relative in another country. Scott arrives in New York to take back the next load of passengers who are allowed to leave the US, passengers who have waited a long time for this day.
The author gives us a glimpse into what life is like in New York as the Captain arranges for a friend to pick him and a Stewardess up in a taxi, altered to run on chicken poo! As they make their way through this ruined city, the fear is described wonderfully. With guns at their side they may their way to an apartment in the city where the Janitor helps keep the tenants safe. People in New York are starving; food is hard to come by, the emergency rations handed out barely reaching the whole population. They stay in the apartment over night, and an event happens which makes the Captain realise that coming into New York when on a flyover is not a safe option anymore.
The next day, safely back in the airport, the Captain begins the 8 hour flight of taking his full plane back to England. Whilst in the air, war breaks out on the world below him, leaving him relying on updates from various communication centres on what is happening. Iran set off a Nuclear bomb, Russia and China say the US gave them the weapons, whilst the US deny all knowledge... and before he knows it, everyone is nuking everyone.
The book then follows the Captain and his fellow crew and passengers on a quest for survival, trying to land the plane in the Azores and plan where to go from there, before the nuclear fallout in the clouds above them, begins to sink...
What follows is a quest for human survival taking Scott into places and situations he never imagined. It makes for an engaging read as it's something you can't ever imagining happening, yet the author has done a very good job of making the whole thing seem quite plausible. Sometimes the book does get a bit too technical, probably due to the fact that David Graham was an RAF fighter pilot, however this doesn't go on for long, and is generally during important points of the book involving risk landings or take offs. It adds to the realistic feel of the book, and despite not understanding what these technical terms mean, you understand when something is going right.
The book is from the 80's, and sometimes the views of women are a little old fashioned, especially coming from the view of the male pilot, but it's understandable going with the times. One point which did annoy me was a sudden romance in the later part of the book where two characters suddenly seemed to be instantly in love. I think the author could have done without this, maybe have made it a more slow moving and realistic romance, and whilst I understand the characters are in a dreadful situation, I just couldn't believe this would happen.
The writing style was easy to follow, and characters are easy to remember and you won't find yourself getting mixed up or going back a few pages to remember who is who. As the Captain moves through the events of the nuclear bombs and discovering the world they knew has near enough ended, you can really picture the scenes and the emotions of the characters are written wonderfully.
There are some nice moments in the book where the author has made the Captain stop and realise what is happening to him, looking out of the cockpit and the sky and world around him, and wonder where it all went wrong. I especially like a part when he seems to realise how small him and his plane are, moving over the planet. "... the puny handful of creatures flying around it's flank, chasing the sun, the mother of all life."
One of my most favourite genres is apocalyptic, and I'm always keen to read books from this genre's. After asking on a forum for books I may not have read, Down to a Sunless Sea was one of the ones that kept cropping up. I decided I must read it, but it's quite a hard book to get hold of, and I ended up paying several pounds for it from Amazon, where it is often priced around the £10 mark.
Overall the book makes for an engaging read, and whilst it is a slightly old book, I found a lot of the main events to be quite relevant to modern day events, making it almost ring quite true to word. If you are a fan of books of this genre, this isn't one to be missed.