Drowning Towers is a science fiction novel by George Turner, and is a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

The book is set around an Archeological site near a drowned coastal city of Australia in 2061, at the transition point between a global warming trend just over and an ice age just starting. During the warming trend, waters covered this part of the city, leaving only the tops of sky scrapers above the water. The water has receded enough to expose twelve floors and renew interest in how people lived at the end of the previous ice age, just before the towers were drowned.

The story is told from a dual perspective. A major actor has decided he wants to write a play about the people who lived in the towers, and has managed to get help from the lead archaeologist. The lead archaeologist has written a novel about how she thinks these people lived using discovered police records and personal journals. The story alternates between the actor exploring the ruined towers and the text of the archaeologist's novel as the actor reads it and considers how to turn it into a script.

The novel within the novel portrays a collapsing civilization, where the financial system has nearly totally collapsed and society has become highly stratified, divided into 90% welfare sustenance and 10% wealthy workers. We follow the lives of a family on the fringe, interfacing with both worlds as the waters slowly rise and the world's strained ecology and changing weather create disasters hidden by the media.

The book explores how a government might gain near total control over people's lives without becoming totalitarian. It blames the economic collapse on the greed that believes that the economy can continue to expand forever in a world of fixed available resources. It depicts a government in a state of controlled corruption.

It explores the morality of a squeezed society. "Cultural imperatives change with the weather." It depicts contrasts -- order amongst chaos, wealth and health amongst poverty, and social mobility of the poverty stricken climbing to wealth, and wealthy falling to poverty. It hints that today's (and tomorrow's) poor may be living better than the majority of people did in years past.

Perhaps the best description of this book is in this excerpt from the book's postscript:

Nobody can foretell the future. ... So this novel cannot be regarded as prophetic; it is not offered as a dire warning. Its purpose is simply to highlight a number of possibilities that deserve urgent thought if some of them are not to come to pass in one form or another.
We can be sure only that enormous changes will take place in the next two or three generations, all of them caused by ourselves, and that we will not be ready for them. How can we be? We talk of leaving a better world to our children but in fact do little more than rub along with day-to-day problems and hope that the longer-range catastrophes will never happen.

Drowning Towers is about the possible cost of complacency.

-- postscript from Drowning Towers, George Turner, 1987

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