Title: The Fog Diver
Author: Joel Ross
Chess has lived his life above the Fog that covers the world. Only the highest mountaintops are safe from the roiling white cloud that kills any human who spends too long in its depths. Chess and his friends run a salvage crew, with Chess as the tetherboy who dives into the Fog to the world abandoned below, hoping to salvage something that will earn them enough money to leave Rooftop and travel to Port Oro. It’s a mission to save themselves and Mrs. E, who took them in. But Lord Kodac rules the Rooftop, and he has a particular interest in Chess, whose Fog-filled eye is Kodac’s doing . . .
I had a lot of fun with this, although the prose at times felt a bit too sparse. The details about Chess’s shyness with revealing his eye were spot on, but for whatever reason his conviction that Lord Kodac is his creator never struck me as hard. That aside, it was nice to see Chess isn’t the only one of his crew who’s more than a little special. And it’s not like anyone on the crew is one-dimensional. They all have a particular skill, but they go beyond that.
Much of the humor comes from the various ways Chess and the others have distorted the pop culture of today into things that don’t quite make sense to them or us. Like when Chess is talking about constellations, and mentions not only a bull but Oprah. Or the way whales as well as squarepants live in the ocean. I was particularly amused by his reaction to finding someone’s secret savings—and just what happens to cash these days. On the flip side, though, since most of the pop culture does apply to the current time period, it does feel a little odd that the intervening time between now and then produced nothing noteworthy enough to make it into the local slang or legends.
The world is interesting. Unlike a standard dystopia, this one makes a lot of sense to me. With most of the world blanketed in a substance that kills people, the remaining survivors are struggling with limited resources (land and food especially). Because of the elevation, and the fact that a lot of perfectly usable stuff still exists below the Fog, on the surface, a lot of society revolves around flying. So there’s a heavy steampunk flavor to it too, with balloons, zeppelins, and other various airships.
Overall, although this one doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, most of the larger questions about the world and even about Chess remain unresolved, so I’m hoping a sequel is in the works. I rate this book Recommended.