book cover of The Swells
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The Swells

A novel by

In this darkly hilarious satire by the inimitable Will Aitken, class war erupts aboard a luxury cruise ship.


A boatload of white privilege, The Emerald Tranquility is the most luxurious cruise liner afloat, its passengers some of the richest people in the world. Meanwhile the ship’s crew, overworked and underpaid, live packed tightly together in airless below-deck cabins. The passengers encounter a great number of cataclysms at sea, but no matter the catastrophe, the great ship always sails on.

Briony, a globetrotting luxury travel writer, emulates the rich — though homeless and penniless herself — as she hops from gig to all-expenses-paid gig. On her own personal voyage, she encounters Mrs. Moore, an enigmatic woman of advanced age clandestinely fomenting a mutiny on this bountiful ship.

With the captain overthrown, roles quickly reverse: the crew become the ship’s new leisure class and the aged passengers learn how to mop floors and scrub toilets. Confused and terrified by the resultant chaos, Briony must decide which lot to cast her fate with in this savage satire of the way we live now.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"Careful not to spill that flute of Veuve Clicquot on your Jimmy Choos as you're swept away on the waves of this riotous high-seas satire where the 1 percent become the 99. The delectable queer lovechild of Conde Nast Traveller, The Great Gatsby, Karl Marx, and P. G. Wodehouse, The Swells asks if revolution is like rearranging diamonds and deckchairs on the Titanic, if utopia is the worst form of society except for all the others. Strap on your Mae West: this voyage is an archly, artfully, uproariously breezy yet incisive dark delight." - Gary Barwin

"In The Swells, Will Aitken's brilliant new novel, the most luxurious cruise ship on the seas floats right-side up, but the passengers and crew are turned upside down. On board, a class mutiny yields an eviscerating yet hilarious reversal of fortunes and a stinging, darkly veiled satire that left me laughing and thinking long after I turned the last page." - Terry Fallis

"The Swells is a brilliantly acerbic upstairs-downstairs satire of class and privilege on the high seas. Will Aitken is a singular voice in our literary landscape." - Jordan Tannahill

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