Some two hundred years from now, the polar ice caps have long since melted. Chicago is on the coastline of mainland United States, which is ruled by a fundamentalist Christian government. Moving east, you’ll find the Appalachian Islands, and then huge expanses of ocean covering the drowned cities, where tips of building occasionally poke up from the waves.
And then there’s New York which, Depth makes clear, can survive anything.
Water levels have risen about 20 stories — so the million or so people who still inhabit New York live on the 21st floor and above, employing newer technologies such as Glassteel to keep the above-water buildings more or less dry and waterproof. The building are connected by an intricate maze of bridges — some well-maintained, some rickety — and permanently moored boats, such as converted cruise ships and military vessels, which form everything from police stations to nursing homes to floating restaurants.
Watch your step! The waves keep churning beneath your feet, and you WILL get wet. Salt water and sea spray are everywhere, and those bridges can get pretty slippery. One big storm or moment of inattention, and you’ll end up in the water… and in general, those who go in only come out as corpses destined for the recycling plant.
Oh, it’s quite a world that author Lev AC Rosen has built here in Depth. The concept alone is worth picking up this futurist, sci-fi, noir detective story (described in the cover blurb as “Heinlein meets Hammett”) — but hey! There’s an actual plot to go with it, and it’s quite a good one.
Private investigator Simone Pierce is a tough, prickly red-head who goes her own way and sticks to her own company for the most part. Her only two trusted friends are Caroline, a highly-placed politician from a powerful family, and Danny, a young man with some unusual talents who masquerades as a psychic. Simone is out on a routine case, trying to get the goods on a client’s possibly cheating husband, when she’s pulled into something far more deadly and complicated. When the husband turns up dead, Simone finds herself embroiled in a web that includes suspicious cops, a potentially crooked pastor, an art-loving power broker, a sexy grad student, and a mysterious woman, whom Simone thinks of as The Blonde, who seems to be at the center of it all.
The author has pulled off quite a balancing act here, creating a fully fleshed-out detective story that keeps powering forward with high-level energy, and at the same time pulling us into a crazily off-balance world that delights with each water-soaked new chapter. The new environment is just fascinating, and I am full of admiration for the way the author slips in little details about the waves or the salt water or the constant dampness while there’s a chase scene underway.
The dialogue has all the wryness, and sarcasm of a traditional noir detective tale, fine-tuned for this new place and time.
“Are you asking me along to watch you interrogate someone I’m angry at in an attempt to repair our friendship?”
“That is exactly what I’m doing.”
“Will you let me hit her?”
“If the opportunity presents itself.”
Even the descriptive passages are full of some wonderful imagery:
Simone tossed what was left of her cigarette into the ocean. It cartwheeled into the water, one end leaving a trail of sparks like blood spatter.
Really, I just can’t say enough about Depth. I’ve been a fan of this talented author since his debut novel, All Men of Genius, was released in 2011. The detective part of the story is fun and engaging, but it’s this concept of New York as a drowned city that somehow has managed to survive, to thrive, and to keep its own sense of independence and defiance that’s truly a treat. I can’t get enough of the world Lev AC Rosen has created in Depth, and I just hope there will be a sequel so I can visit once again!
Author: Lev AC Rosen
Publisher: Regan Arts
Publication date: April 28, 2015
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Science fiction