The Coral Bones, by E.J. Swift

I’m in China for Worldcon, so blogging for the next few days has been set up in advance to cover this year’s Clarke Award finalists. (Right now, I should be on the direct flight from Brussels to Beijing.) I’ve already posted my quick reviews of 69 of the submissions, and will hope to come back some time for the other 21…

The Coral Bones by E.J. Swift had by far the fewest owners on either Goodreads or LibraryThing, so few that I was a little suspicious that it might have come from a vanity press. But in fact the explanation is that the publisher sadly went out of business and therefore wasn’t able to do the usual promotional activities. This is a real shame, because the book is a gem. The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

She checked the mirror again. The horizon was empty, not a hint of approaching storm. But the dust was always there, at her back. She saw it even on days like today, when there was nothing but the wheel and the road and the infinite red and the depleted husk of country – and yes, the infinite blue. She focussed ahead, let the sky settle in her gaze. Some things never let you go, no matter how far you drove.

It’s set in three timelines, the past, the present and the future, in and around Australia. (Apparently the author has not actually been to Australia, but I couldn’t tell.) The unifying theme is environmental apocalypse, as observed by women scientists; the three plots are each engaging on their own terms, and then the linkage at the end is very satisfying. A real warning about what we are doing to our world and ourselves. It is very much in keeping with the spirit of other recent Clarke winners, and Sir Arthur himself would have appreciated the diving scenes; personally I was especially grabbed by the nineteenth century science. Recommended (like all of the Clarke finalists). You can get it here.