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Cetaceans Rule OK:
A Deeper Sea

by Alexander Jablokov


Ilya Stasov, a Russian military dolphin researcher, believes that dolphins can communicate with man. His obsession will eventually prove to be founded and show that the dolphins are far more intelligent and calculating than one might suppose. It will also transform his dolphins into cruel and deadly weapons, and plunge Stasov into a horrific war and then a prison camp, before he is called upon to lead the dolphins into space.

"A Deeper Sea" is a hard book to make a call on for a very good reason. It's an expansion of a strong, very strong, novella. (Curiously my edition of the book failed to note this.) As such there's a feeling of disappointment, that the books fails to carry off for its entire length what the novella did. It would be remarkable if it did, but you are still disappointed when it doesn't. It just doesn't have the same "bang for buck".

On the plus side, there's some crisp and intense prose here. (Which also the describes the contents of Jablokov's "Nimbus" which i recommend heartily.) A naval battle scene is described vividly and gorily without becoming gratuitous and there's some nice space scenes. Intelligent dolphins have been in danger of becoming an over-used trope in SF these recent years. (David Brin's "Uplift" series is just the most prominent example.) But Jablokov's cetaceans are a colourful delightful lot, brawling and vicious, scatological and panicky. They're so interesting that at times you wish the humans would disappear from the novel.

Which is perhaps another problem. The book is essentially the journey of Stasov, his obsession and later guilt. Where his progression, the "emotional causality", was clear in the novella, in the book it is somewhat extended. By the end of the book Stasov has been punished too much, has suffered too long. It's difficult for a reader to continue to identify. ("Would you get over it - it's been 4 chapters since that happened! Now where are those dolphins ...?")

In any event "A Deeper Sea" is a decent book. Those who have read the novella could probably miss this, but others will find it a worthwhile (if in some ways imperfect) read. Sunny mornings on the Sid and Nancy scale.

Added: January 1st 1998
Reviewer: Paul-Michael Agapow
ISBN: 0-380-71709-3
Name of Publisher: Avon/Nova
Publisher's Address: New York
Year of Publication: 1992
Number of Pages: 360
Format: paperback, Aus$12.95
  

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