Published in 1953, "In the Wet" is set in the year 1983. This novel contains two of Shute's regularly used themes. This includes (1) reincarnation, (2) a young couple overcoming adversity. This story, like most of Shute's novels, has a narrator.
Our narrator is an elderly Anglican priest. He is assigned to a church in the outback. He retells the story of a dying man. The man "Stevie" is dying; he is in great pain. In order to ease the pain Stevie smokes opium.
When Stevie is under the influence of the opium, he tells a story of reincarnation. Except that the life he recollects is not in the past but in the future. Stevie tells of the life of David Anderson.
David Anderson is of mixed parentage and has dark skin. He has a nickname with which he says he does not have a problem. However, the nickname of "Nigger" could put one off while reading this novel.
David is an aviator in the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force). While stationed in England, he becomes Wing Commander for the Queen's Flight. The England of David's time has ceased providing the monarchy with an airplane (Shute always refers to anairplane as a machine). The Commonwealths' of Canada and Australian have chosen to each provide a new machine. The Queen requests that the flight crew of the machine be citizens of the country that provided the equipment. Hence David is in charge of the machine which Australia provided to the monarchy. David falls in love with Rosemary. Rosemary is part of the staff serving the Queen. Rosemary would like to marry David but feels the need to serve the monarch through the troublesome days.
While on a trip, David suffering from food poising, has a dream. The dream is about "Stevie's" final hours. David has a second dream late in book possibly induced by stress, where Stevie's last hours are portrayed.
The government of England, as portrayed in this book, needs electoral reform. The political and economic situations are not good. The atmosphere is not conducive to the continuation of the monarchy in England.
Shute had some unique insight into the future. In 1953, he visualized 1973 where planes would routinely fly at heights of 50,000 feet. Of course, our flights do not go as high although they are capable of flying.
Anne is portrayed as Princess Royal, an event which did not occur until after 1973.
Shute did not foresee the globalization of television.