Drowntide by Sydney J van Scyoc

Futura, 1987, 222 p.

Drowntide cover

Keiris is the scion of a family/clan, of Adenyo stock, which has the genetic ability to span (communicate telepathically) with sea creatures known as mams. The ordinary people of his society are Nethlor who accepted the Adenyo after their lands were drowned following a volcanic eruption. When Kieris’s sister Nandyris fails to return from a sailing expedition he appears to be the only heir to his mother’s calling – yet he has not manifested any capability in it. In the aftermath his mother acknowledges her powers are fading, reveals to him that he had a twin sister whose father had taken her away very shortly after the birth and charges Keiris with the duty of setting out to find them both and bring his sister back.

This planet has two moons, whose celestial wanderings lead periodically to a period called drowntide when the land to which Keiris travels is subject to daily inundation. In his journey through the islands at the end of the land the book has similarities to Kim Stanley Robinson’s A Short, Sharp Shock (which this novel predates.) Keiris eventually meets the tide folk, where his father is a sort of headman, and his sister – who has the hallmarks of another called race, the rermadken. In following the tide folk’s yearly pilgrimage Keiris develops a spanner’s voice and we discover from their folk tales that all these varieties of human originated from, and left, a poisoned Earth a long, long time ago.

This novel still stands up reasonably well thirty-plus years after its first publication. The cover doesn’t though.

Pedant’s corner:- Nandyris’ (Nandyris’s. Many of the names in this book end in “is” eg Tardis. Every one of their possessives was rendered is’ rather than is’s, ditto Harridys’,) “you care more for your own affairs then for our heritage” (than for our heritage.) “What shore had then chosen?” (What shore had they chosen?) “It gave into” (usually it’s “it gave onto”,) “on an unchartered beach” (uncharted,) “a very young women” (a very young woman,) patienty (patiently,) compell (compel,) “on nights when its warm” (when it’s warm.)

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