New Treasures: The Water City Trilogy by Chris Mckinney

New Treasures: The Water City Trilogy by Chris Mckinney

Midnight, Water City; Eventide, Water City; and
Sunset, Water City (Soho Crime, 2021-2023). Covers by Vlado Krizan

I was in Barnes & Noble last week, and saw an intriguing set of books on the shelves: The Water City Trilogy. It’s not often an entire trilogy manages to sneak past me, especially one with covers this colorful. The back of the first volume had this enticing blurb from Buzzfeed.

This gritty noir set in a sci-fi landscape is a real page turner.

I’m not familiar with the publisher, Soho Crime, and I’ve never heard of the author, Chris McKinney. But I’m not known in this business as a crazy risk taker for nothing. I put down my money and brought Midnight, Water City home.

[Click the images to take risks on bigger versions.]

They pop out on book shelves. They have that going for them. 

Buying the book is one thing. But I do a little research before committing to a trilogy. I’m not a madman.

Tobias Carroll reviewed the book at (now Reactor), and his enthusiasm was infectious.

That sense of powerful people concealing crucial secrets from the general public is very much on display in Chris McKinney’s Midnight, Water City — a novel which makes the most of its slow-burning narrative of detection…

The year is 2142. Just after the turn of the century, Earth was threatened by an asteroid, which scientist Akira Kimura detected. The weapon that she used to destroy it, Ascalon, left a permanent mark on the sky. Our narrator — who, in the grand tradition of the Continental Op, is never referred to by his name — considers Kimura his “oldest and perhaps dearest friend.” He once handled her personal security; as the novel begins, he’s been summoned to her home for protection…

The narrator finds Kimura murdered, nor is it a spoiler to say that solving this mystery will lead him into many secrets the nominal savior of humanity had tried to keep buried… But this is also a novel where a massive underwater city is one of the primary settings and where body modification (including mechanical tails) and extended lifespans are a quotidian part of society. And, apparently, Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” has become a standard, which will likely qualify its setting as full-on dystopian for some readers…

It’s also a novel about a complicated person becoming aware of the terrible things they’ve done — and the terrible things they’ve been less consciously complicit in. That, too, gives this novel a charge, and makes the narrator less of an archetypal figure and more someone trying to do their best impression of one. Despite its futuristic and timeless elements, that’s one detail that also makes this novel feel very contemporary.

Here’s the back cover for readers (like me) whose virtual experience doesn’t feel complete if they can’t turn the book over in their hands.

Back cover of Midnight, Water City

Chris McKinney has a lively blog where he offers readers a glimpse of his writing process. Here’s a taste.

I don’t see the colonization of other planets coming any time soon, or possibly at all. I do, however, see the potential need for some kind of migration off of shrinking shorelines and polluted continents… Underwater architecture already exists. There’s an underwater restaurant off the coast of Norway and another on the island of Rangali. In a century more — who knows? Populating the underwater space near island chains doesn’t feel like much of a stretch. In Midnight, Water City, I imagine the depth in which one lives as a class indicator. The rich live in the depths farthest beneath the surface…

There are two things I don’t see disappearing anytime soon: the smartphone and the disparity of wealth. Water City’s iE (named after its creator, Idris Eshana) is my version of a futuristic smartphone. After reading about how filthy our phones are, I assume that at some point, we will want mini-computers that we don’t need to touch, so I’ve gone with a floating orb. Drone technology continues to expand; in fact, in Water City, pilotless drones are one of the primary modes of transportation…

The final thing I’ll say is that my two favorite novels of all time are One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and 1984… There may be subliminal shades of Mass Effect, Bioshock, and Fallout in this trilogy, as well as shades of my favorite childhood films (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner, and The Road Warrior). Of the science fiction that has captured my imagination most over recent years (Dan Simmon’s Hyperion, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Trilogy among them), I am relieved to say that I see few direct parallels, as my goal isn’t to parrot the books I like. It’s for Water City to be its own thing.

Read the whole thing here.

Maybe it’s the cool underwater city, maybe it’s Tobias’s review, or maybe it’s just an author happily influenced by Mass Effect and Fallout. But I think they had me in the first few seconds with that cover blurb. “Gritty noir set in a sci-fi landscape.”

It’s sucks being predictable, but what can I tell you. If anyone needs me I’ll be in my big green chair, putting my tender heart on the line in a risky relationship with a dodgy trilogy that may break my heart.

Here’s all the publishing deets.

Midnight, Water City (336 pages, $16.95 trade paperback/$14.99 digital, July 13, 2021)
Eventide, Water City (384 pages, $27.95 hardcover/$14.99 digital, July 11, 2023)
Sunset, Water City (368 pages,$27.95 hardcover/$14.99 digital, December 5, 2023)

All three books were published by Soho Crime, with eye-catching covers by Vlado Krizan.

See all our recent coverage of the best new noir and underwater city fiction here.

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K. Jespersen

Soho Crime has had some kind of presence at the American Library Association conferences several times over the past six or seven years, and the catalogue it’s handed out at those times always seems to have a good variety to it. Dare say the outfit looks both strong and reasonable, and they know what they’re doing with the strong bags they hand out to people lugging 30+ arcs around the convention hall.

K. Jespersen

J O’N:

It’s completely unforgettable, isn’t it? Even a few different ones don’t blend together. I’m glad you got to go to one.

This year’s is in San Diego, but it doesn’t look like the “Exhibits Only” pass has gone up very much over last year. About the price of six hardbacks. My preference is usually “Exhibits Only,” optionally adding on a “Single Day” pass if there’s an official panel that’s really worth it. Usually, the author signings and in-booth panels in the exhibit hall are engaging (overwhelming?) enough, though. It’s worthwhile to go as an attendee once, if you’ve been a vendor before!


i will go out on this limb with you, as that blurb feels especially written for me. easy to the point, and i mean i am used to reading free and self published stuff from back in the beginning of kindle days. i would like to know what you think in a follow up post though.

EDIT: oh good turns out i have owned the book since jan 2022 hahaha time for a try.

Last edited 1 month ago by silentdante

Funny you find then with the sf books; in the Barnes and Nobles in my neck of the woods they are shelved in the mystery sections.

Chuck Timpko

Well familiar with the Soho Crime books. They have a broad selection of series set around the world, some present day and others set in recent historical settings such as the Spanish Civil War era, WWI, and the Cold War. Highly recommended with particular note of the books by Peter Lovesey, Rebecca Pawel, and David Downing. Never knew this SF series existed and will check my local B&N for them. Thanks for highlighting !

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