Set in a dystopian underwater world about 100 years in the future, The Light at the Bottom of the World pits a talented young woman against the entirety of the British government. The seas rose and the people adapted. They waterproofed their dwellings and learned to travel in tunnels and submersibles. Yet, all these precautions cannot keep them safe from the things that dwell in the deep, things derived from nature and the evil Anthropoids who were created by man. These half man-half beast fish creatures were spliced up to help the populace adapt to the watery conditions, but they developed a rage and weren’t able to be trusted. They are now banished and hunted, only to become terrorists.
Leyla McQueen is trying to make it through the day-to-day existence at the bottom of the sea. She and her friends like to race their submersibles, test new tech, and play jokes on their virtual maids. Things were going well until her father went to work one day and didn’t come back home. Leyla has tried repeatedly to contact the police and get any sort of attention to his case, but she has been stonewalled. She sees a chance when she is picked to race in the annual London Submersible Marathon where the winner gets to ask the PM for one wish… Will she be able to win against the one hundred other racers? What are her chances?
And that’s just in the first quarter of the book… Shah flips the “big race” trope and puts it at the beginning of the book. What if the main character wins the race and still doesn’t get the golden prize? Leyla has her friends to help her see through the conspiracy of her father’s arrest, and her grandfather to remind her of her Muslim faith and give her the protection she needs. An independent investigation. There goes Leyla.
This is a quality YA read. An imaginative setting that allows for so much room to explore with technology and a cultural shift. Leyla is a fully-formed character who is fun to follow along. She is forced to grow up fast and use all the strength and love her parents have given her. A great character who Shah writes a nonstop plot for.
I had a small problem with the rounded-corner science, but the reveals were good. I was happy to hang on to the propeller and go for the ride! Augmented dolphins, an Oscar Wilde hologram navigator, and love for family that won’t be denied.
4 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley, Disney-Hyperion, and the author for an advanced copy for review.