The Lord's Pink Ocean: A Novel of the Future
Reviewed date: 2019 Mar 20
In a high hidden valley overlooking the dead city of Boston live the last humans. James Parker, his woman Ruth, and his daughter Mary; his neighbor Robert Smith, his wife Janet, and their son Ian.
Their high valley has a small lake, fed by underground springs of clean water. The rest of the world's waters are pink. Pink rivers, pink lakes, pink ocean. The pink algae is death. The billions that once filled the world are all dead. The animals are dead. The plants are dead. The only living things left exist in the high hidden valley where the pink algae cannot reach. Leaving the valley is death, and so none ever do.
James himself was born after the change, but his mother told him what she knew about the Times Before. And they had books, at least until the grass fire started by those Smiths, so he's familiar with things such as automobiles and airplanes although he has never seen one. He has little time to think about such things because his life is filled with trying to scratch out a living on a small farm and putting up with his lazy mooching neighbor Smith.
James Parker dislikes the Smiths because Robert Smith is lazy and a cheat, and because they're not our kind of people. What kind of people? The Parkers are black and the Smiths are white. And despite there being only two children alive in all the world--Mary Parker and Ian Smith--they aren't allowed to play together because that would be obscene.
I thought this book would be about trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world ruined by an environmental catastrophe, but actually it's about miscegenation. Yes, because while Parker and Smith and their women have no idea about Jesus or the Bible, they have been handed a vague religion that forbids two things: technology and mixing the races.
But they have to survive. Their purebred livestock are sickly, so James and Smith talk it over and decide maybe the prohibition on mixing doesn't apply to animals. They trade some animals, and the resulting offspring are strong and hearty. This bending of the rules extends as far as letting Mary and Ian play together, but only until they grow up.
Inuit Anglican Missionaries
An airplane buzzes the valley and makes a graceful landing on the lake. They're not alone in the world! Out step the Reverend Noel Avakana and his wife Martha. They are Inuit Anglican missionaries from the far north where the cold stops the pink algae. They talk about Jesus, hand out some Bibles, perform a marriage ceremony so the Parkers and Smiths are no longer living in heathen sin, and give Ruth and Janet some modest garments to wear--Mother Hubbard dresses.
The Reverend also talks excitedly about establishing a mission base in the valley, about bringing scientists and farmers and ministers. So that night while Noel and Martha sleep, James Parker and Robert Smith kill them and sink their floatplane to the bottom of the lake to hide the evidence.
The murders weigh heavily on James. He laughs less, is angry more, becomes paranoid and dangerous. Mary, now forbidden from seeing Ian, sneaks out at night to see him anyway. It's an escape from her increasingly unpredictable father, and besides, Ian is clever and nice and they are genuinely falling in love. Which is good, because there's no one else. Their mothers are supportive, but one night as they meet in Ian's tree house, both of their fathers discover the forbidden love affair. As both fathers begin to climb up to the tree house in murderous rages, Ian cuts the rope and both men fall to their deaths.
Several years pass. Ian and Mary have a boy, Hamish. Another airplane arrives. This time it's not missionaries, exactly, but they're from the same group of survivors. It's Curtis George Third and his wife and baby daughter. Ian and Mary greet their guests warily but in friendship. Curtis George explains more about the survivors. There is a thriving community in Greenland, which is where Curtis George is from. (It's also where the Reverend Noel Avakana was from, but Ian and Mary pretend to know nothing about the fate of the Reverend.) The community is made up of white folks, some Eskimos, and a few black people. There are a handful of aging survivors in the Antarctic, and a community of a few thousand in Siberia.
As Ian spends more time with Curtis George, he realizes that the man is thoroughly evil. Curtis George has set himself up as a strongman dictator of the little Greenland community, and he is bent on shaping the world to suit his vision. That vision includes racial purity: mixed children like Hamish will be raised in orphanages, and Curtis hopes to set Ian up with a nice white girl.
Ian doesn't like what he's hearing, so he sabotages Curtis George Third's airplane. It crashes. Curtis George Third and his wife and baby daughter die.
The ocean turns blue.