The Alexander Jablokov series continues with an expansion of an earlier Jablokov work into a novel.
Raw Feed (1993): A Deeper Sea, Alexander Jablokov, 1992.
I didn’t like this novel version as well as the novella version of the same name.
The dolphins – the best part of this novel and the novella – are just as obnoxious, petty, irritating, and sexually perverted as in the original novella. They, in fact, seem more vicious here as do the philosophical orcas: drowning sailors when no one’s around and saving them dramatically when someone is.
But their motives seemed diffused by the novel’s length.
Their religion only comes across has half understood, an unclear motivation for driving whale Clarence on the rocks and for orcas taking an interest in dolphin messiah and God’s Remora Weismuller.
Jablokov does a nice job in evoking the phrases of a dolphin language as well as their obsession with hierarchy, sex, and eating. After all, with no opposable thumbs and no fire, there’s not a lot for them to do. And the idea of a dolphin language that mimics the echoes of real objects is a great idea. The act of echoing, in dolphin mythology, is an act of creating and describing the world.
In fact, this novel can be seen as another example of Jablokov’s concern with the subjects of death, art, and religion.
The dolphins and orcas see death as an act that can give meaning to the universe and their lives. Their mythology has God’s echoing as a creative act as well as a description and understanding of the world.
The religious Vsevolod Makarygin, son of an Russian Orthodox priest, tells Weissmuller “If shouting the shape of reality is what you should do – then do it. … Echo land …”. Religion is thick in the book – not only with the dolphins but also the pious Makarygin who helps main character Colonel Ilya Stasov find solace and some kind of purpose in their terrible internment by the Japanese in a prisoner of war camp.
The tech in this book is well thought out, but clearly in the background. Jablokov, a communications engineer, is more interested in human relationships and the struggle between Stasov and the dolphins he forces to speak after a self-imposed silence of thousands of years. Both dolphins and Stasov see themselves as using each other for their own ends.
Stasov overcomes his guilt at torturing the dolphins into speaking and uses them to realize his vision of a cyborg whale contacting lifeforms on Jupiter. This vision of his – the image of a cyborg whale floating in space inspired Jablokov to write the original story – serves a religious function.
In the novella, Stasov’s guilt at mistreating the dolphins is not only assuaged by advice from his friend Makarygin but the salvage rights he negotiates for them. It has the dolphins trying to flee Earth in cyborg form due to, well, seemingly due to man’s new interest in them on top of man’s old disregard, but nothing is totally clear.
The novel has the impulse to go into space a religious one, and the orcas want revenge on the enigmatic Jovians that eat Clarence in the deeper sea of Jupiter. They also want to hunt man, Stasov speculates, in space.
This uncertainty of motives in this book, their lack of a clear rationale is a weakness though one could read this understanding of motives the object of the lifelong quest of Stasov’s eluded to at novel’s end. Even the reasons for why dolphins stopped speaking to man after the explosion of Thera is not clear. Jablokov diluted his story in expanding it.
The main difference in the plots of the two stories is Stasov on-again-off-again love affair with Anna Calderone. His character’s motives seem less clear even though he kept the best part of the novella – the creation of a cetacean consciousness.