Review Blog

May 23 2017

Aquatica, a beginner's field guide by Lance Balchin

cover image

Five Mile Press, 2017. ISBN 9781760404147. Hardcover, 32 pages.
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Dystopian fiction. Future settings. Environmental issues. Animals. Robots. Science fiction. Lance Belchin's Mechanica introduced a futuristic world where the extensive use of fossil fuels has poisoned and destroyed the atmosphere, the ecosystems and all of nature. The sea is now a sterile place, while the red sky is filled with atmospheric fires. In Aquatica, a beginner's field guide, we discover the fantastic range of robotic sea creatures that inhabit this desolate environment. These dangerous Aquatica pose a new threat to the enclaves of humans left in the world as their population rapidly grows in the underwater energy field known as the Hum. Here these creatures are able to communicate, talking, planning, plotting, and beginning to move stealthily closer to the human settlements.
Fifteen-year-old scientific genius Liberty Crisp sets out on her first voyage in the HMS 'Beagle' from the fortified island of Madagascar. She travels with her friendly Mechanica bat, Bert, across the deadly oceans of Asia gathering data, images and recording notes on the new frightening species of wild creatures. Some of these prove to be nonviolent, able to communicate with Liberty and the other humans on her ship.
Exquisitely detailed illustrations, display each mechanical creature; there is fluidity to their lines, an amazingly seamless combination of the robotic and realistic features. Each creature is identified by its scientific name, detailed description of movement, purpose, composition, communication mode, speed, power and location. The massive Watching Squid is a dangerous creature with its two lead tentacles able to deliver a massive electrical charge as it speeds through the ocean at 190 kilometres an hour, stunning and killing its prey. The iridescent turquoise Sentinel Pleumon has a symbiotic relationship with the Hunter Shark; it transmits attack information to the shark that protects this defenceless creature.
Balchin's Aquatica brings a deep environmental message: the impact of our misuse of fossil fuels, global warming, destruction of habitats and the animal populations, all have futuristic consequences. This beautifully detailed scientific guide, with its photorealistic technical illustrations is suited to readers from nine years of age up to ninety! This is an excellent resource for educators in the Upper Primary and Lower Secondary years across the curriculum in Science, Technology and Design, Environmental education and sustainability, Geography and Art - digital illustration.
Rhyllis Bignell

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