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Book cover art by Jim Burns.
Review © 2001 by Thomas M. Wagner.

Apart from its near-future, post-eco-disaster setting, there isn't much about Blind Waves that could be thought of as science fiction. But this tale of what occurs when a salvage worker finds a sunken ship full of bodies on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, with implications that a U.S. government agency might be responsible, is an engrossing little political mystery-thriller, despite the fact that Gould can't resist falling back on clichés more than he ought. I suppose that if Alistair MacLean or Frederick Forsyth had ever tried their hands at SF, the result might be something like this: a sleek, fast-paced and fairly formulaic thriller that would look awfully good on a movie screen.

The story is set on the Texas Gulf Coast following an ecological disaster that has resulted in every environmentalist's worst fear, the melting of polar ice. Now, with coastlines drastically altered by the infamous Deluge, the entire sociopolitical landscape of the world has altered as well. Even many U.S. citizens, whose former homes now lie beneath the waves, have found their citizenship status changed, as living on the continent is no longer a right granted to all. Patricia Beenan is a well-to-do citizen of the floating city of New Galveston, who runs a salvage operation in the Gulf, helping oil companies and the like recover hazardous materials from the ruins of once-coastal cities now on the sea floor.

On one such operation, Patricia discovers the wreckage of a ship which has clearly been very recently sunk, and the holds of which contain, to her horror, dozens of bloated corpses. What's more, it is apparent that the types of shells used to down the vessel are standard INS ordnance (in this waterlogged dystopia, the Immigration Service has become a highly powerful arm of the American military). Who are these unfortunate people, and why would our government have committed such an atrocity, if in fact they did?

Patricia narrowly escapes being run down herself by an INS cutter, but just before the chase ensues, she manages to post a video clip of her awful discovery to the internet, which, in addition to almost every news media outlet in the world, brings INS Criminal Investigations officer Thomas Becket onto the scene. Incorruptible and stalwart, Becket has all of the noble ideals of his namesake, and so it's absolutely no surprise at all when Gould introduces an INS admiral who takes on the role of nemesis and tries to get Becket to cover up the case. It's also no surprise at all when Gould has Becket and Patricia fall in love almost instantaneously upon meeting — indeed, it's as if a voice bursts out of a P.A. system while you're reading to announce, "Obligatory Thriller Love Story landing on runway seven!" Yes, folks, Blind Waves is basically a potboiler, a fact Gould tries to conceal by having Patricia quote Shakespeare in almost every scene....

But hey, it's an entertaining potboiler, and there's nothing wrong with those if you're in the mood, is there? Gould does make charming and likable characters out of his two leads, and you care about them enough as you follow their story that you're perfectly happy to throw up your hands and go with Gould's reliance on formula. Gould does a cool job of gradually unfolding the mystery of the sunken ship, too. And the introduction of such themes as racism and isolationism gives the story a respectability that helps to offset its more banal conventions. Blind Waves may not be Gould's best book, but it is one (and this is most apropos, considering its subject matter) to take to the beach.