Zin E. Rocklyn’s horror novella gives readers a striking debut. Flowers for the Sea is a marine biologist’s nightmare and a climate change activist’s worst-case future. The book brims with gripping prose, telling a heart-wrenching and terrifying tale. Overall, Flowers for the Sea stumbles to the finish line, but it will likely captivate many readers, and for that, I praise it.
Iraxi is pregnant, and the baby might not be human. She’s managed to make herself part of a small community on a ship, a collection of survivors who remain after an apocalyptic event forced the small remainder of humanity to the sea. The waters churn with the movements of dangerous fanged creatures while wraith-like beings glide through the skies. But Iraxi’s shipmates may prove the most nefarious and dangerous foes. Meanwhile, she struggles to decide whether she even wants to be pregnant, a status her shipmates assert will help them survive.
Flowers for the Sea will undoubtedly titillate horror readers. The Lovecraftian tale borrows elements of Rosemary’s Baby and other horrific stories. Rocklyn crafts a unique world that could support multiple full-length novels. My problem with the book, though, is that it feels locked in place, unable to breach the surface of its own pool of ideas.
It’s hard to explain. Flowers for the Sea reads like a poem. A semi-vivid, nightmarish dream. The prose is transportive and has the power of a punch to the face. But, the events occurring happen in a way that made me feel like I was watching through translucent glass. I could always glean the outlines of the characters, the setting, the creatures in the scene, but it lacked a level of clarity I so desperately desire from the narrative.
Part of the problem, as I hinted at above, is the story’s length. Rocklyn does an amazing job presenting their ideas with limited page space. In this case, however, I found myself hankering for a full novel. I often had problems deducing exactly what was happening. This is undoubtedly a result of Rocklyn’s deliberately dreamlike prose. That’s fine, of course, but I felt lost in the fever dream of this world, unable to latch onto details that could ground me in the world. I struggled to find the larger narrative because the novella is so limited in scope.
To say much else would bring me into spoilerland, and I can’t afford to stray there. So I’ll leave you with this: Flowers for the Sea might be just the horror/fantasy combo you’ve been searching for. It might be the novella that ushers you into more Lovecraftian tales. For me, it was an interesting read that I didn’t fully connect with. Rocklyn’s writing and deliberate vision, however, ensures that I’ll be on the hunt for their future work when it arrives.
We received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.