Melt by Jeff Murray
Set in 2048, Melt starts dramatically with a family clinging to their home as an eight-day cyclone wrecks destruction on their small island nation of Independence. Vai watches helplessly as all their valued possessions are swept away. But worse is that by the end of the storm her father is missing, presumed drowned. Their nation’s only hope for the 20,000 souls living in Independence is for New Zealand to make good on a long-standing promise: that they can settle in New Zealand when their island is deemed uninhabitable from the result of climate destruction. But the officials insist they must wait another ten years and they start erecting tents in place of the destroyed homes, reducing their community to relying on handouts to survive.
Vai arrives in Auckland with the hopes of all her people riding on her young shoulders as their advocate. This is a world that is not quite the apocalypse some feared, but the entire world is reshuffling as nature is making some parts of the world inhabitable. Antarctica is melting and is now seen as a continent for future widescale settlement, and New Zealand is the gateway to this new land of hope. Vai hopes she can help build a new city in New Zealand to serve as a gateway to Antarctica and settle her people there, but she soon discovers there are powerful players in the world – China, America and India – all vying for a new type of land grab, as New Zealand adapts and changes to the global threat.
While the themes of this book are clearly about climate change and potential disaster in the near future, and also a story of refugees and exclusion, it is a thrilling read with a brave young heroine on an epic journey. Vai navigates a confronting, crowded Auckland, and meets Miriama, an influential property developer who wants to help relocate refugees in the deep south of New Zealand, building a city as big as Hong Kong. Vai is keen for her people to be part of this but is horrified to discover that many officials simply don’t care about the poor in most instances – they are working to make themselves comfortable in this emerging new world order. Needing to leave NZ for a period, Vai joins an Ocean Warrior group bound for the Southern Ocean later in the novel, and things become very fraught when they sink a Japanese whaling ship. Vai makes it back to New Zealand alive but changed. With Miriama’s assistance, Vai then travels to the Chinese base in Antarctica.
How much is Vai willing to do to help her people survive, and what will be her ultimate sacrifice?
Melt is a page-turning book that will grip from start to finish, but there is also so much thought-provoking information to contemplate. You won’t feel the same about the world after reading it. Exciting, challenging and intelligent, this is a magnificent novel, a book with humanity at its heart.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Mary Egan Publishing