The British Library continues to release long lost classics of science fiction, this time turning the spotlight on Charles Eric Maine (1921-1981), an author writing within the zeitgeist of the Cold War and the fears that were stoked by nuclear annihilation; one of his creations being The Tide Went Out which would also be later re-released under the title Thirst in the late 1970s.
The story follows journalist Philip Wade, who arrives at his Fleet Street newspaper to discover that his latest article has been censored by the British government. Wade smells a conspiracy and begins looking into the cover up. However, Wade is then unexpectedly offered another job at a newly-formed government department - the International Bureau of Information. Its sole purpose is to provide positive spin for ongoing events, but the ongoing events involving nuclear testing in the South Pacific and a breach in the Earth’s crust have meant that the planet’s water is starting to run out. The nightmare is only just beginning.
The Tide Went Out is a very enjoyable piece of Cold War fiction. It has the classic threat of nuclear annihilation (a very real possibility at the time) which is then extrapolated into a post-apocalyptic nightmare, a trail which is trodden by an extremely well-developed character in Wade, likeable yet stern, heroic but also in some instances cowardly. However, the story is sometimes frustrated with its own pace. On the one hand, some key features of the narrative happen too quickly when you would think more detail would be given (or is that completely the intention, given the censorship and “cover-up” nature of the story?), meanwhile, some aspects are dwelled upon too much.
The intention of the British Library’s re-releases is to give new life to stories they feel should be remembered. Is The Tide Went Out worth remembering? Yes. Its hiccups with pace can easily be forgiven, as it shows a nightmarish world told through the eyes of a protagonist that you want to win.
THE TIDE WENT OUT / AUTHOR: CHARLES ERIC MAINE / PUBLISHER: BRITISH LIBRARY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW