The Alexander Jablokov series continues.
Review (1991): “A Deeper Sea”, Alexander Jablokov, 1989.
I liked this story.
It had one of Jablokov’s usual three themes (death, art, religion): religion (and a bit of death).
The story is noteworthy on the idea level for a couple of reasons.
First, Jablokov, unlike just about anyone else who deals with intelligent dolphins, doesn’t glamorize or make them into cute, playful (in fact they seem to be notably lacking in humor) creatures. He describes them through one character as: “contemptible, corrupt, sexually perverse bunch of braggarts, cowards, and fools”. They turn into terrorists to boot after the U.S.-Soviet war. Jablokov does a nice job with his near future where the war occurs in the 2020s and marks Japan’s naked ascent into military superpowerdom.
In an oh-so-Japanese touch, they imprison war criminals at Bataan in a camp named for General Homma, commander of the Japanese force in the WWII Philippines.
Jablokov does a nice job with dolphin culture, religion, language (vulgar with little sense of fiction or unliteralness) and, particularly, perceptions. Jablokov approaches the depiction of the dolphins as if they were aliens which they are. The sonic sense of the dolphins combined with their language produce a brain that can exactly depict a real place with sounds — and cause hallucinations when man reproduces the sonic map of an area. When Colonel Ilya Stasov tries to communicate with the dolphins (dolphins and humans have not communicated since the Minoan civilization fell), he unwittingly tortures them with his sonic maps.
They do anything he asks including becoming brutal cyborgs in the war. And then Stasov realizes his “crimes” (an orca tells him he only did what was necessary and, therefore, did not commit a crime). Therein lies a tale of guilt, religion, and expiation. Like Vikram Osten in Jablokov’s “The Breath of Suspension“, Stasov becomes a tool in a religious quest.
But whereas Osten is manipulated by St. Aya Ngomo, Stasov is the manipulator of cetaceans and their religion. He arranges events to get a cyborged whale, a dolphin messiah (and dolphin Weissmuller, a cowardly, very unwilling John-the-Baptist type figure for the Messiah, or, as they put it, the Echo of God), and other cyborged dolphins into space — whether they want to or not.
Exactly why this will be sufficient penance for his past crimes against dolphindom is unclear. After all, the dolphins didn’t ask for this. Stasov even knowingly tortures Weissmuller to do this — and tells him he must live with the pain of his destiny. Stasov is a Moses type figure leading an unwilling flock out of bondage. Exactly why he feels this to be penance or his destiny is unclear and the story’s weakest point. (The tortured Weissmuller will take over as a sort of Aaron after Stasov’s death.).
Like Aya Ngomo manipulating Osten’s life to gain a new space drive in Jablokov’s “The Breath of Suspension”, Stasov manipulates affairs and incidentally gets Erika Morgenstern’s dream of humans in space realized.