It’s a very different world in Lance Balchin’s Aquatica and Mechanica, but it’s not an unbelievable one. The year is 2250, and all biological species have been wiped out. Corporations became out of control through the twenty first century, and irresponsible governments did nothing, blinded by greed and capitalism. The use of fossil fuels ruined the earth as we know it, poisoning the atmosphere and destroying ecosystems, leading to the destruction of nature. The sea is sterile, and the sky is red with atmospheric fires.
In Mechanica, we’re introduced to plucky hero Liberty Crisp, a fifteen year old genius, with a vast knowledge of Mechanica and Aquatica. Mechanica were built by scientists to replace the animal species we so recklessly allowed to die. They’re made for work and labour, and even some are made as domestic ‘pets’, and populate mechanical zoos. But soon, the mechanica grow sentient, they combine and evolve, until eventually they’re out of control. They attack human enclaves, angry about their indentured servitude, and humanity is forced back into a few survivable enclaves. The Orient and the Americas are completely uninhabitable, reclaimed by the mechanica we created.
Now, in Aquatica, things are changing. Once the Mechanica gained control of the land, it became obvious that things were happening below the depths… New species are emerging, what become known as Aquatica, and they pose a whole new threat. Their population has risen dramatically in fifty years, and they are dangerous to anyone who comes across them. In their evolution, scientists have become aware of the Hum – an energy field that the Aquatica can tap into and communicate. This has made the machines all the more deadly – they’re talking, planning, plotting, and beginning to creep closer to the fortified human settlements.
Liberty Crisp, though, doubts that they are truly violent creatures. She travels through the world, on a mission to salvage what remains of the few human enclaves left on earth who’ve fought hard against the ruthless attacks of these robotic life forms. But some, it seems, are not violent. They even communicate with Liberty and other humans. On her quest through oceans and land, Liberty records the Aquatica she comes across, and notes that maybe there is some hope. She’s seeking contact with the Mechanica government, but it means crossing treacherous seas… will she survive?
Aquatica is presented in the same style as Mechanica. It’s a ‘Beginner’s Field Guide’, but there is nothing rustic about Balchin’s elegant illustrations. They have such elegant and gentle designs, and you really get a sense of what Liberty is saying: surely not all of these beautiful mechanic creatures can be dangerous. The mix of photo-realism and steampunk bring a strange familiarity to the creatures, something like a forgotten dream.
While presented as a picture book, Aquatica is by no means for younger readers. This book makes an excellent gift to any kid aged nine and up, and will even enthral artists and storymakers through their teens. Aquatica is a beautiful cautionary fable about what may come if we don’t change our habits now, and so it’s perfect for the next generation of children. The art will entice, the story will enthral, and Aquatica will leave you breathlessly ready to defend our earth as we move further into the twenty first century.
Lance Balchin grew up in the inner Melbourne suburb of Collingwood and now lives in Brisbane. He comes from a background of art, fashion and skateboard photography and has taught adults in these areas for fifteen years. He holds a Masters in Arts and also recently completed a law degree. Having always enjoyed story telling, Lance draws on literature, history and science in his writing. He started using Photoshop in 1991 and a quarter of a century later has developed a comprehensive understanding of it as a creative tool in both portrait photography and illustration. Although he spends most of his life in front of a computer, he can be seen most weekends wobbling around the Paddington skateboard park with his 12 year old son Frank.
Grab your copy of Aquatica and your copy of Mechanica here, read our review of Mechanica here, find out more on the website, and follow Better Reading Kids on Facebook for more kids’ book recommendations!