Book review: Her Death Was Also Water, Allen C Jones

This end-of-the-world novel is more than just an adventure story.

Much has been written about the end of the world – see the last book in the New Testament of the Bible. At the opposite end of the scale, Douglas Adams describes the end of the world in a few lines with casual good humour in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In the wide range between these extremes, there are novels about how Earth has been destroyed by climate change, by a deadly influenza virus, and by inventions gone wrong, to name just some examples. 

Allen C Jones now adds to this collection with a mystical novel about the reaction of a few people to a world that is mostly underwater.

As the water rises and rises to eventually cover almost everything, seven people find themselves in a large boat. These individuals from a small US township react to the calamity and to each other in very different ways as they face danger and death.

While this is an adventure story, it is a serious work that teases out aspects of sexism, bullying, self-preservation, generosity of spirit, irrational optimism and, not least, racism:

A man on the roof of the minimart waves his arms and yells, asking for a ride.
‘Let’s pick him up,’ David says.
’I think we need to be careful,’ Carol says, peering out the window. ‘That’s not a small man.’ She laughs nervously. The man is quite large and, while she knows she can’t say it to David, he’s also black. Not that this has to mean anything, she thinks, but statistically speaking it does. David is a bleeding-heart liberal, she thinks.

At one stage, the people in the boat – starving and thirsty after many days adrift – see an island, probably what was once the peak of a high mountain. People are jumping off a cliff and, as they fall, they sprout wings and fly away as birds. The reader is left to speculate that the island is a hallucination and not part of a new reality, although it is presented as such.

There are numerous flashbacks to the events that shaped the survivors in the boat, doubtless designed to foster characterisation, but which arguably hinder the momentum of the narrative. I have to admit to some personal aversion to flashbacks, particularly if they are short and numerous, and Her Death Was Also Water has a few. I also harbour a bias against too many coincidences and this novel abounds in them. As a result, I found Her Death Was Also Water less enthralling than it might have been, though many readers may not share my view.

Read: Book review: Time of My Life, Myf Warhurst

This novel, after all, has a lot to give. It is a fine adventure story. It offers many insights into human nature. It shows us a glimpse of what the human race may face in the not-too-distant future. Let us hope, then, that a world underwater remains in the realm of fiction.

Her Death Was Also Water by Allen C Jones
Publisher: MidnightSun Publishing

ISBN: 9781925227918
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368 pp
Publication Date: November 2022
RRP: $29.99

Erich Mayer is a retired company director and former organic walnut farmer.