“Well-written, meticulously researched and thought-out, Sea Changes, Derek Turner’s first novel, succeeds mightily in bringing to life the prototypical players in the Western tragedy that is mass migration. The reader becomes intimately au fait with the many, oft-unwitting actors in this doomed stand-off: small-town conservative folks vs. progressive city slickers; salt-of-the-earth countrymen against smug, self-satisfied left-liberals. Ever present are the ruthless traffickers in human misery: both media and smugglers. Like it or not, the dice are loaded. In this epic battle, the scrappy scofflaws and their stakeholders triumph; the locals lose.”—ILANA MERCER
If ever a book was timely, it is Sea Changes. Here are excerpt the author was kind enough to forward. They demonstrate his exquisite sensitivity.
Derek is not politically correct; he is emotionally and morally correct:
The following presages the discovery of the little boy’s body:
“All that sighing and significant night, the North Sea had been laying a terrible cargo tenderly along the tide-line. As the stabbing sun raised itself above the rim of the ocean, the revealed brilliant bigness of sand was studded with defeated shapes. But no one was there to notice.
A brown-skinned man lay where the water had reluctantly relinquished him at last, with his face pressed into the fine yellow sand, his inky hair drooping with dampness, his limbs sprawled awkwardly.
A bark-dark teenager lay nearby, his eyes bulging at all that unenjoyed beauty, his refined features petrified in panic, mouth agape as if his life had been in such a hurry to leave that it had forgotten to close the door.
A few feet away sprawled an older man, who looked a bit like the boy, similarly staring straight at the sun without it hurting his eyes, his blue jacket inundated indigo, swollen ankles trying to burst cheap running shoes, a white skull-cap on his head and his thick and curly beard clasping moonstones of moisture.
A young black woman was disposed elegantly 50 feet along—her beauty belied by an equally uncomprehending expression, and a streak of blood that had leached from her nose and was now starting to attract tiny flies. She lay on her left side with one arm aimed appropriately inland, her hands curled in a grab for ground found too late.
The four lay unheeded in the gathering dawn, strewn with many others along miles of strand—lead-heavy leavings which just a few hours before had contained memories and machinations, cynicism and systems, hoards and heirlooms. Pitiable personalia had washed up, too, tangled up with the shells and starfish—suitcases, a comb, toys, a tiny plastic shrine to Vishnu with a blown electrical fitting. …”
And this next extract is a perfect look at how cultural arbiters and politicians react to migrant misfortune:
“For the most acutely attuned, this sad stranding was another awful installment in an interminable tale. It was a reprise of too many other disasters—those Moroccans choking to death in the refrigerator truck at Felixstowe, the train-crushed Laotians, or those notorious news agency images from the Mediterranean—disregarded dead on resort beaches, chilled swimmers clinging onto tuna-nets hundreds of miles from any coast, bobbing brothers, pilgrims treading water with diminishing strength, forgotten face-down floaters, whole hopeful boatloads upturned and lost on the way to El Norte—the lands of intolerant over-plenty, whose tall grey warships sliced casually through the drifting destitute, captained by cold-eyed men.
It was a parable, a practically self-penning story of seeking and never finding, and a search for new life met by death—a cautionary tale to trouble the conscience of a continent….
…The globe’s screens were crowded with dignitaries expressing their shock, their determination to get to the bottom of this tragic event, their admiration for the emergency services— and their words were ported planetwide, the chrism of compassion, the Immaculate Conception of the International Community.”
On the aggregated media coverage and cultural impact:
“The dead had made landfall in more than one way. They had been the People’s People, opined a columnist hitherto best known for having been punched by an actor he had tried to interview outside a night club at 3 a.m. He added that those who could not feel for the People’s People were not People. Another journalist fought back real tears as her cameraman homed in on a salt-soaked teddy rolling slowly on the edge of the sea—for which she would deservedly win that year’s Excite! Social Conscience Prize (formerly the Thanatos Pesticides Shield).
For John and a few important others, that week brought contradictory emotions—horror, guilt, moral certainty, satisfaction at being proved right and a sense that great affairs had somehow been set in train. To them, the recumbent ones were a standing reproach, a symbol of all that should be altered. They were exhibits in the case against everything that was wrong. They were polychromatic pilgrims, MLKs for the XBox generation, Chés for today, drowned James Deans, rebels and martyrs, dead in the name of love, saintly for being silent, idealized for being unmet. They were enzymes of change. They represented a billion whorls of life passing and repassing south to north, east to west, First to Second to Third, poor to rich, fresh to stale, surging to senescent. People just like you and me (morally better than you and me)—fleeing war, famine, poverty, disease, and smothering tradition, shuffling towards our setting sun, coughing, crying, sighing and dying en route, to be trampled by illimitable followers with no possessions except authenticity, and always ill children held in always stick-like arms.
They were dry scarecrows waiting to be woken into life—an army coming in peace, hoping for crumbs from the groaning tables of those whose cars they would wash, whose children they would nanny and care homes they would staff. They were bringing colour and vitality— enlightenment and folk-wisdom—welfare state salvation and low wages. Our world was dying. The tide had turned, and sea-longing was filling everyone with a desire to see the wide-open countries of the North. The world’s They were on their way.
But there were some who could not comprehend, and who would do anything to preserve their privilege. Standing athwart history was a perverse coalition—businessmen, bankers, landowners, the military, white-bread holidaymakers who strolled blithely along beaches ignoring the imploring, populist politicians, pudgy provincials. These had thrown up bristling barricades against the future—fear and forms, police and procedures, guns and indirect discrimination, meeting tears with tear gas. …”
From Sea Changes.
UPDATED (10/5): I have still to tackle Camp of The Saints. To be honest, I stopped reading novels a long time ago for obvious reasons. However, Derek’s is a page turner. I recommended it to my husband, moreover, b/c he is unable to read unless text is real boy stuff; packed with information. I’m like that too. I skip- or skim LONG-WINDED dialogue. But Derek’s Sea Change is packed with the kind of detail men (me too) relish: bridges, firearms, architecture, buildings, history, and sympathy; it’s all there. This is not an anti-immigration screed.