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A claustrophobic, literary dystopia set in the hot, luscious landscape of Andalusia from the author of The Golden Key. After the ravages of global warming, this is place of deep jungles, strange animals, and new taxonomies. Social inequality has ravaged society, now divided into surface dwellers and people who live in the Upper Settlement, a ring perched at the edge of the A claustrophobic, literary dystopia set in the hot, luscious landscape of Andalusia from the author of The Golden Key. After the ravages of global warming, this is place of deep jungles, strange animals, and new taxonomies. Social inequality has ravaged society, now divided into surface dwellers and people who live in the Upper Settlement, a ring perched at the edge of the planet's atmosphere. Within the surface dwellers, further divisions occur: the techies are old families, connected to the engineer tradition, builders of the Barrier, a huge wall that keeps the plastic-polluted Ocean away. They possess a much higher status than the beanies, their servants. The novel opens after the Delivery Act has decreed all surface humans are 'equal'. Narrated by Pearl, a young techie with a thread of shuvani blood, she navigates the complex social hierarchies and monstrous, ever-changing landscape. But a radical attack close to home forces her to question what she knew about herself and the world around her.


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A claustrophobic, literary dystopia set in the hot, luscious landscape of Andalusia from the author of The Golden Key. After the ravages of global warming, this is place of deep jungles, strange animals, and new taxonomies. Social inequality has ravaged society, now divided into surface dwellers and people who live in the Upper Settlement, a ring perched at the edge of the A claustrophobic, literary dystopia set in the hot, luscious landscape of Andalusia from the author of The Golden Key. After the ravages of global warming, this is place of deep jungles, strange animals, and new taxonomies. Social inequality has ravaged society, now divided into surface dwellers and people who live in the Upper Settlement, a ring perched at the edge of the planet's atmosphere. Within the surface dwellers, further divisions occur: the techies are old families, connected to the engineer tradition, builders of the Barrier, a huge wall that keeps the plastic-polluted Ocean away. They possess a much higher status than the beanies, their servants. The novel opens after the Delivery Act has decreed all surface humans are 'equal'. Narrated by Pearl, a young techie with a thread of shuvani blood, she navigates the complex social hierarchies and monstrous, ever-changing landscape. But a radical attack close to home forces her to question what she knew about herself and the world around her.

30 review for The Swimmers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    The Swimmers is a richly-imagined literary eco-dystopia that draws inspiration from Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea and presents an earth centuries in the future when life has irrevocably changed for all living creatures on our home planet. It's 2033 in Andalusia, Spain, and after the ravages of global warming, this is place of deep jungles, strange animals, and new taxonomies and in the tropical zone carnivorous plants and humongous animals have overrun the forests and continue to mutate with alar The Swimmers is a richly-imagined literary eco-dystopia that draws inspiration from Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea and presents an earth centuries in the future when life has irrevocably changed for all living creatures on our home planet. It's 2033 in Andalusia, Spain, and after the ravages of global warming, this is place of deep jungles, strange animals, and new taxonomies and in the tropical zone carnivorous plants and humongous animals have overrun the forests and continue to mutate with alarming speed. Social inequality has devastated society, now divided into surface dwellers and people who live in the Upper Settlement, a ring perched at the edge of the planet’s atmosphere. Within the surface dwellers, further divisions occur: the techies are old families, connected to the engineer tradition, builders of the Barrier, a huge wall that keeps the brown sludge plastic-polluted ocean away. They possess a much higher status than the beanies, their servants. The novel opens after the Delivery Act has decreed all surface humans are ‘equal’. Narrated by Pearl, a young techie with a thread of shuvani blood, she navigates the complex social hierarchies and monstrous, ever-changing landscape. But a radical attack close to home forces her to question what she knew about herself and the world around her. This is a captivating and powerful story that explores the ongoing and future devastating effects climate change could have on our planet and ecology and the wider implications of social inequality, class and cultural differences, and displacement. This is prescient speculative fiction exploring the issue of climate change through a superbly crafted tale that is as heartbreaking as it is absorbing. It's vivid and realistic, and I found myself immersed in the narrative pretty swiftly. The world-building is intricate and the descriptions throughout of the landscape, the natural world and the dangers we as humans now face to find a solution to the predicament of climate change issues are dreamy and evocative. Highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Da

    Firstly, huge thank you to Titan Books and NetGalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The Swimmers takes place in the future on a dystopian Earth, which has been nearly destroyed climate change. Due to the climate change, there is a group of rich people who live in the Upper Settlement away from Earth and they consider themselves more superior. The first part of the story focuses on Pearl, who shows us the drastic changes to the world, including the mutated animals. We le Firstly, huge thank you to Titan Books and NetGalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The Swimmers takes place in the future on a dystopian Earth, which has been nearly destroyed climate change. Due to the climate change, there is a group of rich people who live in the Upper Settlement away from Earth and they consider themselves more superior. The first part of the story focuses on Pearl, who shows us the drastic changes to the world, including the mutated animals. We learn that her father is accused of killing another child when she was younger, but Pearl does not believe it. Just part of this journey is finding out what really happened. Personally, this story felt very difficult to follow and all over the place. I did enjoy the overall concept, but it took extra effort on my end to follow along. As I was reading, I felt like I was missing crucial pieces of information or indicators if it was the future or the past. Frankly, I found myself flipping back several pages to see what I missed. Its an interesting take of what the future could hold given our current path.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bandit

    First and foremost thought on this one…Well, someone read and liked The Southern Reach Trilogy very much and decided to do something similar. Albeit, objectively inferior. And some of it is because VanderMeer at his best is tough to beat. And some of it is due to this book’s pacing. It’s kind of…dreamy? I mean, the narrative has a distinct dreamy quality to it, too. But it’s the acing that throws the entire production off, though not catastrophically. The main basis for The Southern Reach book First and foremost thought on this one…Well, someone read and liked The Southern Reach Trilogy very much and decided to do something similar. Albeit, objectively inferior. And some of it is because VanderMeer at his best is tough to beat. And some of it is due to this book’s pacing. It’s kind of…dreamy? I mean, the narrative has a distinct dreamy quality to it, too. But it’s the acing that throws the entire production off, though not catastrophically. The main basis for The Southern Reach books comparison is due to the fact that this book is so heavily set among the creative flora and fauna of a different world. But otherwise this is a different book and the world within it is very different, also. Womack imagines a dystopia where there has been a split, with some living up in the orbit, with luxury and technology while others are stuck back on the radically changed by climate devastation Earth. So this is a work of climate science fiction, thanks global warming. The different social strata are very well laid out, the socioeconomic guidelines define denizens of both locations, though it is more complex on Earth, since it is, among other things, a more complex environment. The oceans are held back by walls and the wildlife has grown gigantic, prehistorically so. Since this is where the book’s protagonist lives, the readers get to know this world through her as she navigates her way around it. Some of the novel is spent with her being isolated and pregnant up in the skies, in a world that’s been rumored to have become infertile. Some of it is her life throughout the years on Earth. Alternatively, you also get Arlo’s perspective, her love interest from the orbit, who travels down to marry her. Oddly enough, some of the plot details are already fading from my mind and it’s only been two days and three books since I’ve read it. Must be because the plot never quite lived up to the splendidly imagined scenery, especially toward the end is kind of ambled around. The thing with The Southern Reach trilogy is that for all its magnificent nature writing, the plot has always steadily marched to the beat of its drums, no matter how weird that beat or those drums might have been. This book tended to meander instead of marching. It was still interesting and original and lusciously imagined, though maybe not quite as streamlined plot wise as I would have liked. Still enjoyable to read and went by very quickly. Fans of literary dystopias, especially with climate angle, might do well to check this out. Thanks Netgalley.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rosie

    Firstly, huge thank you to Titan Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. The Swimmers is a reimagining of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, set in a dystopian, futuristic, Earth that has been almost destroyed by global warming and climate change. This has led to extreme social inequality between those who live on the surface and those who live in the Upper Settlement. Pearl has lived on the surface her whole life believing that she knows the t Firstly, huge thank you to Titan Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. The Swimmers is a reimagining of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, set in a dystopian, futuristic, Earth that has been almost destroyed by global warming and climate change. This has led to extreme social inequality between those who live on the surface and those who live in the Upper Settlement. Pearl has lived on the surface her whole life believing that she knows the truth about The Ring, but after an attack close to her home and her union with Arlo, she begins to doubt everything she knows. Both Pearl and Arlo were really interesting characters from the two extremes of their new world: with Pearl from the poverty stricken surface and Arlo comfortably living in the Upper Settlement. What I particularly liked was seeing how both of them believed that they knew the truth about the world and society, and how the word ended up the way it is. I also really enjoyed seeing how they would interact with each other about this and how they both developed because of their ‘union’. I really liked Savina as well, I liked the relationship she had with Pearl. There were a few characters that were introduced during the novel that seemed to just disappear as the novel progresses so it felt as though there were a couple of loose ends. I liked how we spent a lot of the beginning of the novel learning about the world through the perspective of Pearl only to later go to Arlo’s perspective and then alternate between the two. I thought this was a great way to introduce the readers to society in a way that makes the reader suspicious of what is really going on even if Pearl appeared very naive at times (which could be a little frustrating). Additionally, not only did the perspective shift from character to character which was always made clear to the reader, the novel would also shift from past to present too which wasn’t always clear and made for some confusing reading in certain chapters which left me struggling to connect the dots. Although this novel is a dystopian reimagining of Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, this novel can still be enjoyed as it is even if you haven’t read Wide Sargasso Sea (if you have, however, there are plenty of parallels and references which feel like nice little easter eggs). I really enjoyed the world that Womack had created, for the most part it felt like a whole different world rather than a post-apocalyptic Earth. Womack’s depiction of an Earth ravaged by climate change and the excess of plastic was my favourite aspect of the novel. Although Womack’s writing is beautiful and lyrical in places, the idea that this kind of world could be a reality was very much present gave the book a different edge that was unsettling. Overall, despite my confusion over parts of the plot and some characters seeming to just disappear, this was a really interesting take on the usual dystopian setting which I enjoyed and is well worth checking out.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jael

    An eco-dystopian, Weird speculative fiction, this eerily premonitory tale imagines what could happen if both capitalism and climate change go unchecked. It is the 2300s, and Earth is now transformed from centuries of abuse. The oceans are filled with plastic, animals have mutated into monstrosities, and the jungle swallows up entire villages in one night. The rich have only gotten richer and have moved into the Upper Settlement, a space station on the edge of the atmosphere. Everyone else is doin An eco-dystopian, Weird speculative fiction, this eerily premonitory tale imagines what could happen if both capitalism and climate change go unchecked. It is the 2300s, and Earth is now transformed from centuries of abuse. The oceans are filled with plastic, animals have mutated into monstrosities, and the jungle swallows up entire villages in one night. The rich have only gotten richer and have moved into the Upper Settlement, a space station on the edge of the atmosphere. Everyone else is doing their best to survive on the inhospitable Surface. The Swimmers follows the story of Pearl, a girl living in what was once Andalusia, as she "navigates the complex social hierarchies and monstrous, ever-changing landscape". Simply put, the writing is gorgeous. The author describes everything beautifully, and I was entranced from start to finish. There is no hand holding when it comes to world building, yet the world is where this book truly shines. You are dropped into a place that is both alien and uncomfortably familiar, a place you can see vividly in your mind's eye. This book is more character-focused than plot-focused, though the plot and conclusion did leave me reeling. Without giving too much away, Pearl's evolution was a joy to follow: from a scrappy kid without direction, to a woman on a mission to find the truth and improve her community. I highly recommend this to fans of the Southern Reach trilogy and anyone who likes character-driven books with immersive worlds.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Doreen

    2/24/2021 3.5 stars rounded up. Full review tk at TheFrumiousConsortium.net. 2/27/2021 It’s kind of hilarious how the back cover of this volume calls it a reimagining of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea even as Marian Womack’s afterword candidly discusses how she doesn’t want to compare The Swimmers to what was for her a seminal text. And I can see for both arguments: the comparison is a huge hook in getting readers to pick this up, but the story itself, while having many parallels to that reimaginin 2/24/2021 3.5 stars rounded up. Full review tk at TheFrumiousConsortium.net. 2/27/2021 It’s kind of hilarious how the back cover of this volume calls it a reimagining of Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea even as Marian Womack’s afterword candidly discusses how she doesn’t want to compare The Swimmers to what was for her a seminal text. And I can see for both arguments: the comparison is a huge hook in getting readers to pick this up, but the story itself, while having many parallels to that reimagining of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, is really quite different from both novels. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t spend the first few chapters trying to get the two plots to sync together better in my brain. Pearl is a young surface-dweller who lives with her loving, if distant, mother and ill younger brother on a rambling estate almost wholly given over to the encroaching wilderness. Her memories of her father are fragmented and unreliable, but she knows scandal followed his death by suicide in a military base. Growing up nearly feral, socializing mostly with those of the beanie and shuvani classes considered lower in status than her own, she’s in for a surprise when her mother suddenly remarries. Anton VanLow is kind but also obviously in need of Urania’s fortune. He moves their family to Old Town while he remodels the estate, gradually introducing them to modern civilization as he wheels and deals with their fellow techie caste members and the higher-status ringers who live in orbit over earth. Tragedy strikes when they move back to the estate, tearing their family apart and causing Pearl to eventually seek refuge in an Academy that trains her for work in the Ring, or so she hopes. Years later, a ringer named Arlo comes down to Old Town to marry the stepdaughter of an industrialist his father means to court. Arlo is attracted to Pearl but doesn’t understand her life or her world, and she will soon leave him in an attempt to make sense of her place on this planet... or above it, no matter the consequence to her or to the baby she reluctantly carries. Set in a far future where humanity’s haves live in a pristine off-world while the have-nots struggle against the wild and ever-changing wreckage of a planet Earth that is coming back with a vengeance after centuries of ill use, this is a fascinating study both of ecology and sociology, and how myths and stories grow to make history more palatable to the average person. It’s an excellent fast-forwarding of the class and feminism issues highlighted in WSS to apply to an imagined future in the aftermath of eco-disaster and social stratification via futuristic technology. Perhaps most surprisingly, The Swimmers is also a critique of collection vs curation. What is the point, Pearl wonders, of gathering data without providing context and making value judgments of worth and posterity? It's also a brutally honest rendition of a woman who hates being pregnant but will do anything for her child once born -- sentiments I have a strong sympathy for. As with her debut novel The Golden Key, Dr Womack does a tremendous job of establishing the atmosphere and otherworldly settings our protagonists encounter and often struggle through. The ideas are lively and the individual scenes often indelible for their imagery and evocation of feeling. I do continue to wish that certain parts were more developed tho. How did the Ring trap the pregnant Pearl? What’s up with the visual manifestation of the storytellers’ art? Why not do more than coyly allude to how Pearl’s father mistreated her mother? And what was Verity’s actual cause of death?! I did enjoy The Swimmers more than TGK (which I’m still hoping for a sequel to!) because it felt less vague around the periphery despite being a book that lends itself to a kind of dreaminess where details may more quickly slip into irrelevancy. Obviously, I still had my questions, but overall it felt a more satisfying read, likely because it’s more topical than TGK, allowing Dr Womack to focus with wry precision on a wider number of issues that deserve mulling over in our day and age. I do hesitate in calling this a dystopia when the society here is so obviously patterned on an actual historical era, in this case, life in early 1800s colonial Jamaica. Undesirable and unjust, for sure, but so far within the realm of possibility as to have actually happened, and hooking the literary term "dystopia" to it, while technically correct, feels like an attempt to make it seem like bad societies were a fiction or an anomaly instead of a horrifying reality for far too many people. Finally, would like to note how gorgeous that cover is, and perfectly evocative of the novel's post-eco-disaster setting, even if none of the swimmers in the book actually come into contact with underwater Venus flytraps large enough to kill a person. That we know of, anyway. The Swimmers by Marian Womack was published February 23, 2021 by Titan Books and is available from all good booksellers, including Bookshop! Want it now? For the Kindle version, click here. And for some cool tech, check out this bundle.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vivienne

    Fascinating eco-Gothic novel inspired by The Wide Sargasso Sea ‘The Swimmers’ by Marian Womack is set on a future Earth ravaged by climate change where the last of the human race is divided between those living on the surface among deep jungles and monstrous animals and those living in the Upper Settlement, a ring situated at the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.   Its lead is Pearl, a young woman living on an isolated estate in the forests of Gobari, with her beautiful, mad mother, Urania. Following Fascinating eco-Gothic novel inspired by The Wide Sargasso Sea ‘The Swimmers’ by Marian Womack is set on a future Earth ravaged by climate change where the last of the human race is divided between those living on the surface among deep jungles and monstrous animals and those living in the Upper Settlement, a ring situated at the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere.   Its lead is Pearl, a young woman living on an isolated estate in the forests of Gobari, with her beautiful, mad mother, Urania. Following Urania’s remarriage, Pearl’s stepfather promises her to Arlo, a starborn, who descends from the Upper Settlement to claim Pearl as his bride. ‘The Swimmers’ proved to be a fascinating novel and I was quickly swept up by Womack’s rich, dreamlike descriptions, especially of the changed Earth. Her imagined mutated creatures were impressive including the human-sized, orange-furred hares, “Venus flytraps as big as a small child”, as well as “those strange days when the sky was green, blue, electric.” The cover art highlights those flytraps. Her style is lyrical though at times this made the narrative a little hard to follow. Still, I just allowed myself to be swept up in the flow. Apparently this eco-dystopia is a reimagining of ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’ though to date I have never read that classic novel that itself references ‘Jane Eyre’. Still, it’s clear from the plot description that although set in a dystopian future it has many of the elements of the classic Gothic romance. She describes the novel as eco-Gothic, which I adore as a descriptive term. Given the strict delineation between the various classes and Pearl’s mixed ethnicity, the novel also gives Womack the opportunity to explore issues of discrimination in its futuristic setting. I was very impressed with her visionary writing and immediately bought her first novel, ‘The Golden Key’, and will be looking out for future projects.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Bowyer

    The Swimmers is a furistic fable about how the power of storytelling can be turned into propaganda by those who wish to impose their will on others. It's messy and, at times, hard to follow. But it's also lyrical and beautiful to read. Chaotically structured and constantly rambling just like the jungle the story takes place in. There are plenty of poignant comments on the ever-increasing gap between the mega-wealthy and the poor, and how wealth will insulate the 1% from the devastating effects o The Swimmers is a furistic fable about how the power of storytelling can be turned into propaganda by those who wish to impose their will on others. It's messy and, at times, hard to follow. But it's also lyrical and beautiful to read. Chaotically structured and constantly rambling just like the jungle the story takes place in. There are plenty of poignant comments on the ever-increasing gap between the mega-wealthy and the poor, and how wealth will insulate the 1% from the devastating effects of climate change: "‘The ultra-rich continued evolving their technology as if nothing that was going on was their problem. First, they had escaped into exclusive compounds; then into orbiting houses; and lastly, into the ring itself. With time, half of us had been abandoned here.’" An an interesting point of view - that looking to past mistakes won't help us prevent future ones. In fact, obsessing over our past weights us down and prevents us from seeing creative future solutions: "We were dooming ourselves to the same nonsensical repetition of the same nonsensical mistakes that the pre-Winter men had made. We were weighed down by things that had come to us centuries ago," More than once while reading the novel I thought of the heated beauty and chaos of one of my favourite classic novels, Jean Rhys's "Wide Sargasso Sea". I was, therefore, quite astonished to read in the acknowledgements that the author directly refers to Rhys's novel!: "I have taken my inspiration closely from the novel. Since I first read it, Wide Sargasso Sea has struck me with how closely I could relate to its description of a world in which issues of ‘equality’ and dominant culture proved that nothing as prosaic as the law could indeed make us equal, and that many other undercurrents decide these things for us." A recommended read for those who enjoy lyrical, beautifully written prose with opaque and complex storylines.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jade @theelderbooks

    The concept of a climate change dystopia was really seducing, as I like both of those aspects. However, I did not enjoy this as much as I thought I would. The lore is pretty good. We get introduced to a world in which climate change has divided humanity. The rich and powerful have built a ring in space. Those on the ground suffer heatwaves, mutating plants and animals. That is pretty much all I can say about the plot though. I don't think I understood what the book is really about. It had a lot o The concept of a climate change dystopia was really seducing, as I like both of those aspects. However, I did not enjoy this as much as I thought I would. The lore is pretty good. We get introduced to a world in which climate change has divided humanity. The rich and powerful have built a ring in space. Those on the ground suffer heatwaves, mutating plants and animals. That is pretty much all I can say about the plot though. I don't think I understood what the book is really about. It had a lot of description to show how Earth is because of human actions, etc, so it had this moralizing vibe, but that's normal given the topic. It could have been a little less though. Aside from that, the story is told from different timelines, and I think I got lost in it. I didn't know where the characters were, why they were there, and what was happening. Overall from my perception (because I didn't understand everything), I read a book that describes what could happen in on of the worst climate change scenario. The characters were ok. I liked reading about Pearl. She is smart and had a nice vibe to her. I didn't like much her future husband (can't remember his name, sorry), so I skipped a bit his chapters. Still, there is a character in the book I absolutely love, and that is Savina. She is the "maid" or similar position to Pearl's family, and she has this mystical vibe about her. She's not a witch but Pearl grows watching her brew potions and beverages that seem to have magical effects. She's the kindest character of the book and acts like a mentor for Pearl, which probably has a huge impact on the way she will grow up. So, yeah, Savina was definitely my favorite character! In the end, I didn't enjoy this book too much, because I didn't understand it. I'm not sure this is entirely due to the author though. I think my brain got muddled by other things too, and maybe I'll reread it someday and realize it had more to it than I originally thought. Still, it lacked action for me, and this is also why I couldn't concentrate as much. It is definitely not a bad book, but just one that wasn't for me now.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    Okay. Where to begin...I found this book both fascinating and terrifying to read. The social concepts are interesting and have clever plot points. The terrifying part of reading this was how out of depth I was in the same interesting plot and it's beautiful way its written. It is defiantly a deep thinker book...yes thank Jeff Vandermeer. He is one of these authors whom I love, but sometimes have to read the book a second time to get everything. Okay. Where to begin...I found this book both fascinating and terrifying to read. The social concepts are interesting and have clever plot points. The terrifying part of reading this was how out of depth I was in the same interesting plot and it's beautiful way its written. It is defiantly a deep thinker book...yes thank Jeff Vandermeer. He is one of these authors whom I love, but sometimes have to read the book a second time to get everything.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ahri

    I was so looking forward to this book, and unfortunately I could not finish it. It was beautiful and lyrical but so messy at the same time. I could not get into it, and it was just not for me. Thank you NetGalley, author, and publisher for the ARC.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jill Hamilton-Krawczyk

    The Swimmers by Marian Womack is a dreamy and thought-provoking, speculative evolution, eco-dystopian novel perfect for fans of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. The story is utterly unique and the world building is superb. The captivating cover is what initially caught my eye and when I read the synopsis I knew I had to have it. This was a buddy read with my sister-in-law and we both absolutely loved it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paperbacks

    Firstly I want to say a huge thank you to Titan books for the advanced copy of this title. I was excited to see a new book from Marian Womack, her previous book The Golden Key was a book that I loved so I was eager to dive back into her ethereal writing style. Unfortunately this dreamlike quality, which worked so well in a gothic setting, fell short in this story for me. The premise is strong and a stark take on the future we could find ourselves in, the rich continuing with their opulent lifesty Firstly I want to say a huge thank you to Titan books for the advanced copy of this title. I was excited to see a new book from Marian Womack, her previous book The Golden Key was a book that I loved so I was eager to dive back into her ethereal writing style. Unfortunately this dreamlike quality, which worked so well in a gothic setting, fell short in this story for me. The premise is strong and a stark take on the future we could find ourselves in, the rich continuing with their opulent lifestyle whilst the poor remain on what's left of the surface. The world has in many ways started to reclaim itself and the surface feels very colourful even if the local fauna is a much mutated version of how we would see it today. Reusing and recycling is a way of life, but society has also regressed to one full of superstition and stories over fact. The Swimmers is very subversive in this way and for those on the surface, including our protagonist Pearl, their myths have become part of their way of life, the salutary tales a clever means of control. The Woman in White a figure who both gives and takes in a way that feels immensely cruel, yet her stories continue to be told. I enjoyed how some of these stories were peppered throughout the book to really help drive home how close to propaganda some of them were. Pearl was an interesting protagonist, her story jumps and is mainly in retrospect, I was never clear as to whether she was recollecting or dreaming but I liked how that matched how disorienting her life had become. One of the more fortunate of the surface dwellers she is top of a caste system which sadly still exists and I actually found it quite sad that with all the apparent progress, we still have a society heavily propped up by servitude. Her history is complex and her family full of secrets, her mother being one of the titular Swimmers - which If I'm being brutally honest, I'm still not sure I understand the significance of, especially as the ocean is pretty much a sheet of plastic debris. The introduction of Arlo as a second narrator was much needed and I found his sections in the earlier stages brought a real balance to haphazard recollections of Pearl. His eyes brought a fresh take to what was happening on the surface and I enjoyed his arc very much. The sad thing for me is that I found The Swimmers to be so confusing. The story went in different directions and threads were left unanswered. The writing just didn't feel cohesive and I found it such a hard book to motivate myself to come back to. The Swimmers is not a book you can read piecemeal and I think that's perhaps why I struggled. I wasn't able to have a really large chunk of time and indeed the last quarter where I had more time, I found that I was, to a degree, able to get into the story. However I still felt like I was missing things and had to flip back to check. All this being said though, The Swimmers had one of the most deeply satisfying endings I have read for a long time, I had no idea with the dwindling pages how it could be ended but a simple epilogue spoke of so much and painted the picture perfectly. However, for much of the story I felt that the focus was in the wrong place and I wanted to know what was happening elsewhere which was a shame as I think a bit more structure could have made this a book I would have really loved.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)

    You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight The Swimmers first drew me in with its title (I'll never turn down anything that mentions swimming, let's be real). Then the cover blew me away, and I love me a dystopian, so there was really no doubt I'd be needing to read this book. I feel... complicated things about it, so let's break down what I enjoyed versus what I had trouble with! What I Liked: ►The world itself is fascinating. You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight The Swimmers first drew me in with its title (I'll never turn down anything that mentions swimming, let's be real). Then the cover blew me away, and I love me a dystopian, so there was really no doubt I'd be needing to read this book. I feel... complicated things about it, so let's break down what I enjoyed versus what I had trouble with! What I Liked: ►The world itself is fascinating. I mean, it certainly seems plausible- a group who fancies themselves superior (i.e., richer) lives in luxury while those they deem inferior suffer in less-than-ideal conditions. And of course, the earth is all messed up, polluted, and flat out dangerous, because humans. I'm afraid I never fully grasped the intricacies of said world, sadly, which I will discuss later. But what I did get, I liked. ►The writing felt very atmospheric and contributed quite well to the overall vibe of the story. I certainly understood how desperate the conditions were, and felt for main character Pearl as she tried to navigate the world. ►I certainly rooted for Pearl. I won't say I felt particularly connected to her, but I felt for her, and I wanted her to end up okay. And you know, society in general to be more fair. For Pearl and us, I suppose. What I Didn't: ►The pacing felt a bit off. The thing is, we knew via the switch between past and present, where Pearl's story ultimately ends up. And as the story is slower in nature and quite character-driven, it made it feel longer, not having that sense of anticipation. Pearl's chapters also had a tendency to be a bit long-winded, and while I enjoyed the writing quality, I did wish for a bit more action at times. It seemed like not much happened for a good chunk of the book. And that is okay sometimes! But it didn't really do it for me here. ►As I mentioned above, I was really kind of confused by parts of the world. We're introduced to terms I never fully understood the meaning of, and I kept waiting for it to "click" for me, but it never did. So I spent a fairly significant portion of the book just not getting it. ►While I didn't dislike Pearl's husband, Arlo (in fact, I felt that I understood what was going on much better during his POV), I didn't feel anything about their relationship at all. Perhaps this is a bit spoilery, but (view spoiler)[I think we were perhaps meant to think that they eventually truly loved each other, but I never got that? (hide spoiler)] Bottom Line: A beautifully written and atmospheric book that paints a bleak future for the planet, The Swimmers left me a bit confused and underwhelmed at times.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amy Walker - Trans-Scribe Reviews

    The Swimmers is the latest novel from Marian Womack, and much like her previous book, The Golden Key, it has a strange, dreamlike quality that makes reading it a unique experience. The narrative follows Pearl, a young woman who’s grown up in a world of the far future, where the earth has been completely altered by climate change and out of control terra-forming, creating a place that’s almost unrecognisable for readers. Following global warming the world has been transformed, covered in a vast, al The Swimmers is the latest novel from Marian Womack, and much like her previous book, The Golden Key, it has a strange, dreamlike quality that makes reading it a unique experience. The narrative follows Pearl, a young woman who’s grown up in a world of the far future, where the earth has been completely altered by climate change and out of control terra-forming, creating a place that’s almost unrecognisable for readers. Following global warming the world has been transformed, covered in a vast, always changing jungle, filled with mutant animals. There are three groups of people surviving in this future: those who get to live high above the Earth in the huge ring that surrounds the planet; the Techies, old families who were once responsible for the construction and upkeep of the large barriers that keep out the deadly seas, but have to live on the surface; and the Beanies, a recently freed group of people that were once slave and servants, working in the Techie homes and growing food in the jungles. Pearl is a Techie, and has grown up in a remote estate in the jungles, but after her father leaves her life after apparently killing a child, Pearl’s childhood takes a turn she didn’t expect. Eventually her mother remarries, and the family get to move to one of the last towns left, where she begins to learn more about the world around her, and starts to uncover some secrets about her family and their past. I mentioned at the start that The Swimmers has something of a dream-like quality to it, and this is mainly due to the fact that the narrative is told from Pearl’s point of view, and that the book is written less like someone experiencing a series of events and recounting them to the reader, and more like someone looking back on their life. The narrative comes across more like a flow of consciousness than a more thought out telling of a story. Pearl hasn’t rehearsed what she’s telling people, she isn’t writing it down in an easy to understand way, editing what’s there until it’s clear and easy to follow. Instead it will jump from point to point, with the time-frame of events moving around. She’ll start talking about one thing, but it seems to remind her of something else, so she switches her focus and talks about that for a bit, before going back to her original point. Because of this the book can at times feel pretty disjointed, and even hard to follow, however, it gets readers deeper into her mind than a normal first person perspective would normally manage. The strangeness of the writing style, and of Pearl’s thoughts, are magnified in sections where another voice takes over, and we get parts written from another point of view. These segments feel more like a traditional first person perspective, and are closer to what most people would probably be used to experiencing. These segments help to give further context to Pearl’s story, showing events from different vantage points, and allowing deeper understanding of what’s going on, things that Pearl couldn’t possibly know. They also help to explain the conclusion of the book, something that if we were just following Pearl’s story alone would take a very sudden turn and conclude almost out of nowhere; yet together these two narrative types seem to work, and craft a mostly complete and satisfying narrative. I say mostly, because there was so much about this world that I wanted to learn more about, yet readers were never really given that opportunity. Over the course of the book we learn a little about how the world ended up this way, but it feels like this was just the tip of the iceberg for the most part. We never really went deep into how things got to this point, who was responsible for the dramatic changes to the planet and its wildlife. We got tiny glimpses into the creatures that now inhabit the jungles and vast, plastic filled oceans, but only occasionally when an animal we’ve never seen or heard of before is mentioned in Pearl’s story. I really wanted Womack to go into this in more detail, to really show the weirdness and horror of this new Earth, yet it never happened. I’d recommend The Swimmers to people who want to read a strange and multilayered story, one that will get you thinking and filling in the gaps, but if you’re not a fan of complex weaving narratives and opaque storytelling it might leave you wishing for something a little easier to digest.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liz (Quirky Cat)

    I received a copy of The Swimmers in exchange for a fair and honest review. Marian Womack's latest novel, The Swimmers, is an eco-dystopian novel set in a time where global warming has done all the damage we could have imagined. Yet there were survivors, more or less. Set in the 2300s, Earth is very different from the one we all know. This is the world that Pearl grew up in. A world divided, as some moved to the atmosphere to continue to lives of luxury. While others continued doing the best I received a copy of The Swimmers in exchange for a fair and honest review. Marian Womack's latest novel, The Swimmers, is an eco-dystopian novel set in a time where global warming has done all the damage we could have imagined. Yet there were survivors, more or less. Set in the 2300s, Earth is very different from the one we all know. This is the world that Pearl grew up in. A world divided, as some moved to the atmosphere to continue to lives of luxury. While others continued doing the best they can for themselves on a ravaged surface. Pearl's life is forever changed after a series of declarations and events, all of which sent her reeling. Now she's questioning everything, including what she thought she knew about those around her – and herself. Okay, so I really wanted to like The Swimmers. I loved the cover (who doesn't love the idea of giant Venus Fly Traps?), the description sounded cool, and of course I adored the concept of exploring a completely different world. However, I did struggle pretty hard when it comes to following the narrative of this story. Not because it was too complex, I just found myself working too hard to become invested in it all. Including Pearl's story, I'm sad to say. I actually had to go and look at other reviews before sitting down to write this one, just to make sure that I wasn't missing something major. Apparently I might have been, as some people think that this novel is heavily inspired by VanderMeer's Southern Reach Trilogy. Not having read that myself, I can't say one way or the other. Though I will be adding that series to my list! Long story short: The Swimmers had a lot of really cool ideas, but the follow through was only okay. I loved the tech, I loved the atmosphere, but ultimately felt a lack in that essential human connection. Check out more reviews over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rachel S

    The Swimmers is part eco-horror, part sci-fi dystopia. A few hundred years in the future, Earth has become nearly inhospitable. The privileged lived in the Upper Ring, miles above the ground, and the rest are doing their best to survive the wild ocean, the metastasizing jungles, and the bioengineered wild animals. Those who live on the surface are divided into castes, and the narrator Pearl is a member of the higher caste (her family has a slave, but they're *nice* slave-owners). As the story pro The Swimmers is part eco-horror, part sci-fi dystopia. A few hundred years in the future, Earth has become nearly inhospitable. The privileged lived in the Upper Ring, miles above the ground, and the rest are doing their best to survive the wild ocean, the metastasizing jungles, and the bioengineered wild animals. Those who live on the surface are divided into castes, and the narrator Pearl is a member of the higher caste (her family has a slave, but they're *nice* slave-owners). As the story progresses Pearl learns family secrets, and the truth about what happened to Earth. I enjoyed the descriptions of eco-horror. Womack was obviously inspired by Annihilation (she says as much in the author's notes), but she puts her own spin on things. I could see how much she enjoyed world-building, and I thought the constellations and fairy-tales that enforce social norms were a great touch at creating a realistic society. She was clearly more interesting in that than the Ring, which was almost comically generic. The writing is a bit frantic. We jump around in time and I would have trouble piecing together the timeline of events, and characters are introduced and dropped. Ultimately, I found the book to be just ok.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rafael Morillo

    This story takes place in a future devastated by pollution and climate change. The elites moved away from the surface and now live in a ring constructed over the Earth's atmosphere. Those who live on the surface our socially divided into the techies, their servants the beanies, and the outsiders called the shuvanies. The protagonist is Pearl is mixed techie and shuvanie and is arranged to marry Arlo who lives in the ring. Pearl soon works in the archives where she learns about the Earth and the This story takes place in a future devastated by pollution and climate change. The elites moved away from the surface and now live in a ring constructed over the Earth's atmosphere. Those who live on the surface our socially divided into the techies, their servants the beanies, and the outsiders called the shuvanies. The protagonist is Pearl is mixed techie and shuvanie and is arranged to marry Arlo who lives in the ring. Pearl soon works in the archives where she learns about the Earth and the environment before the Green Winter. The oceans and lands are heavily polluted and teeming with mutated large animals and plants. Mariam Womack has an interesting concept and I enjoy the message she is conveying regarding the horrors of climate change, pollution, and how it mostly impacts working class communities. It serves as a warning to what is occurring in current day society. I think Marian had some pacing issues in this and the changes in time and perspectives made it confusing for me at times. Sometimes it was hard reading this book and I kind of skimmed through the middle. The concept is what carries this story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Scott

    https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres... This is a new author for me. The blurb intrigued me. I enjoyed a lot about the book but some aspects fell a little short for me so it was a mixed bag of a read, a solid middle-of-the-road. The timeline of the book moves back and forth and it’s not always clear where and when you are. It sometimes took a few pages to ground myself in time and place which I didn’t like. I enjoyed the writing style, there’s a dreamy aspect to the writing which I found very en https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres... This is a new author for me. The blurb intrigued me. I enjoyed a lot about the book but some aspects fell a little short for me so it was a mixed bag of a read, a solid middle-of-the-road. The timeline of the book moves back and forth and it’s not always clear where and when you are. It sometimes took a few pages to ground myself in time and place which I didn’t like. I enjoyed the writing style, there’s a dreamy aspect to the writing which I found very enjoyable. I liked the fact there are multiple narrators as well. I think the world building could have been better as I wanted to know more about how the world got to that point and I felt like in the Ring could have been explored more.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    "The Swimmers" pulled me right in from the very first sentence. It's incredibly well-written, with a depth to the characters that surprised me. The futuristic world this is set in is a little bit frightening, as is the plot. I do wish this book had been longer, but I can always hope for some spin-off tales to expand on some characters/events! My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion. "The Swimmers" pulled me right in from the very first sentence. It's incredibly well-written, with a depth to the characters that surprised me. The futuristic world this is set in is a little bit frightening, as is the plot. I do wish this book had been longer, but I can always hope for some spin-off tales to expand on some characters/events! My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Stewart

    I really want to love this book, its got such a unique world and so much depth to it. The problem i found was the story isn't very clear, it jumps around a lot and I feel like important information is unclear. It has all the markers of a great book and I enjoyed reading it, but I wanted it to be better. I really want to love this book, its got such a unique world and so much depth to it. The problem i found was the story isn't very clear, it jumps around a lot and I feel like important information is unclear. It has all the markers of a great book and I enjoyed reading it, but I wanted it to be better.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer M.

    Not the book for me. I thought it sounded interesting based on the premise, but once I started to read it, I struggled. I read about 1/4th of the way and had to DNF. I would still read more by the author to give another chance. But this just wasn't the right book. 2/5 Stars Not the book for me. I thought it sounded interesting based on the premise, but once I started to read it, I struggled. I read about 1/4th of the way and had to DNF. I would still read more by the author to give another chance. But this just wasn't the right book. 2/5 Stars

  23. 4 out of 5

    Richard Hakes

    Little in the way of plot, story or even any charters you could identify. nor sure where all the hype/advertising came from. Not really sure i stuck it out and finished it. Predictably not much happened?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Darryl Hall

    Despite its flaws (such as the rushed ending), the ideas and concepts were fascinating.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristy Johnston

    The concept of the story described in the summary sounded interesting, but I’m lost in the narrative and not compelled to find my way out of it. DNF 20%

  26. 4 out of 5

    Runalong

    A powerful immersive story of our world after huge environmental changes and now stuck in a cycle of stagnant class and societal tensions. Hugely impressive Full review - https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl... A powerful immersive story of our world after huge environmental changes and now stuck in a cycle of stagnant class and societal tensions. Hugely impressive Full review - https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rafaela (dragonsandpaperbacks)

    DNF 58% I was so happy when I got approved for this book that I started reading it right away. But I'm disappointed to say I didn't like it at all. I couldn't even finish reading it. The Swimmers is set in a post-apocalyptic world of overgrown, dangerous plant life and mutated enormous animals. The premise was very intriguing, full of potential, but unfortunately, the story meandered through in a seemingly aimless way. By the halfway mark, there was no conflict in sight or any sort of build-up t DNF 58% I was so happy when I got approved for this book that I started reading it right away. But I'm disappointed to say I didn't like it at all. I couldn't even finish reading it. The Swimmers is set in a post-apocalyptic world of overgrown, dangerous plant life and mutated enormous animals. The premise was very intriguing, full of potential, but unfortunately, the story meandered through in a seemingly aimless way. By the halfway mark, there was no conflict in sight or any sort of build-up to anything. We follow mostly Pearl's perspective - from her present self, living in the Upper Settlement, a society perched at the edge of the Earth's atmosphere as well as through flashbacks of her growing up on the surface of the planet, at the edge of the forest. The narrative focuses mostly on the character's lives, past and current; on their own preconceived notions of their society and social customs. But the whimsical and strange setting was irrelevant; this story could've developed essentially in the same way in a realistic, modern-day setting. I really liked how the human waste and environmental subjects were handled. It makes for a scary possible future of humanity if things continue as they are. And I also loved the writing style. It was entrancing, beautiful at times, and somewhat detached as well. But overall, I just didn't care much for The Swimmers. It wasn't for me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andy Guest

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lesley Tarleton

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