The Roar by Emma Clayton
Almost five hundred pages of brilliantly unpredictable fully-immersive postapocalyptic British fiction, set in a thriftily-constructed half-drowned London, shot through with luminous sensory stimuli and an extra helping of good old-fashioned LANGUAGE. I read it in two days, and I loved it, and I want to do it justice. So I'm going to keep this short.
He paced and watched the sea and for a while he felt like a firecracker with its fuse lit, a bit dangerous - as if when she walked through the door he would erupt and fly around the room breaking the lights, setting fire to things, and taking lumps out of the ceiling. Then he felt all soft and gooey, as if when she walked in he would melt and she would find nothing more than a puddle of love in the middle of the floor. Then he felt both of these things, that he was a firecracker about to explode, but instead of sparks, he was full of love and it was all going to be a bit messy.Do not take this passage the wrong way. It occurs on page 471, and contains I think the first and the second (and the last) instances of the word "love" in the book. I picked it because it gives you Emma Clayton using a twelve-year-old's casual vocabulary to precisely describe a complex emotional state - some trick! Plus, cute there at the end.
The best science fiction - and, I would argue, the best teen fiction - pulls pieces of the status quo out of context so that the reader has a chance to see some aspect of contemporary life from a new perspective. In the case of The Roar, Ms. Clayton has picked natural resource management, environmental degradation, and (because she is English and name me one English author who doesn't, given the chance) the injustice of class.
Exciting, beautiful, gut-wrenching stuff, fully on par with, say, Jo Walton or Charles Stross. Cyborg animals, fighter planes, high-stakes arcade games, diverse characters, mutations, truly dreadful villains, and food made of mold! No wonder it nearly crests the 500 page mark. The ending feels a little rushed perhaps, but by the time I hit it, I was so swept away that I did not mind.