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Story Review | Covehithe by China Miéville

Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

It was a moonlit winter night when Dughan woke his daughter for a stealthy adventure down to Covehithe Beach. An 11.5 miles drive from Dunwich and a sneaky breach into the forbidden part of the beach brought father and daughter close, very close, to a petrospectral presence.

Covehithe was China Miéville’s contribution to the The Guardian’s short story fiction project, Oil Stories, dated April 22, 2011. This was his take on how climate change, pollution, and peak oil have affected the imagination.

The story setting is a coastal hamlet in Suffolk, England. But this event follows a series of events that is already happening all over the world. Old oil rigs are reemerging from the sea. Rusted and barnacled, they are behemoths lumbering towards land, and then drilled their eggs through the earth, which takes about half a day, and then they lumber back to sea. Where they will appear again, no one knows for sure.

The metal was twisted. Off-true and angular like a skew-whiff crane, resisting collapse. It did not come steadily but lurched, hauling up and landward in huge jerks. After each a swaying hesitation; then another move higher, and closer.

This close to the waves the land felt, as the girl said, misbehavicious. A good word to make her feel better.

If you are a follower of China Miéville’s writings, then this is another pleasure of enduring a brain hemorrhage. If this is your first experience, then I welcome you to Miéville’s Worlds of Wonder. For Suffolk, he did not change the lay of the land, like he usually do, but he used all the elements to give his dystopia the depth it needed. The moonlight, the eeriness of the hamlet, the leafless trees, the birds, the sea and the receding coastline -they all worked. Miéville’s love for words is very evident here, too; they are not only amusing, but tongue-twisting as well.

As always Miéville’s stories are not always as it seems, there is always more to the monstrosity and the strange. Imagine all those oil rigs buried in the sea, some left rusting, some even exploded. All of them, though, pumped out oil from the core of our Earth, one time or another. Vessels we used to adulterate our planet. They hauled themselves back to spew their offspring into our land –the profit of our greed. A story telling us that whatever we throw into the sea, will rise up again to haunt us someday –maybe even sooner.


Oil Stories| Covehithe| The Guardian

Rating: 4/5 stars


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