“Above Ancient Seas”

The Alexander Jablokov series continues.

Raw Feed (1993): “Above Ancient Seas”, Alexander Jablokov, 1992.Above Ancient Seas

With his “The Death Artist”, this is probably my least favorite of the Jablokov stories I’ve read.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with it.

The future it depicts on a colonized, metal poor world is interesting though I found the lack of explanation as to how one family supplanted the other in territory and status annoying.

Jablokov says that a failure to properly bury a dead family member would show a weakness that would be exploited by other families. What kind of weakness? While the physical journey to bury the dead seems annoying, it isn’t shown as particularly difficult – even granting that the four member family sticks together even though two could have probably done the job. Jablokov tells us that the funeral is a test of

strength, stamina, and solidarity … an indication that the family could … maintain … its holdings

but he doesn’t show this concept in action.

I liked the twist on the whole women-are-closer-to-nature cliché. Here women are secret possessors of a sophisticated knowledge – and manipulative technology – of Koolan biology, a great deal of which is a human overlay necessary to colonial survival.

I also liked the many colonial families who have a traditional and spiritual allegiance to an Earth their clans left hundreds of years ago. The characters themselves are the story’s reasons for being and its strength.

The family dynamics – Tessa Wolhome’s arguments with her dead mother and with her brother over the value of her city education – are realistic as is their closeness after their mother’s death. (Yes, one of Jablokov’s themes – death – plays a large role in this story and triggers familial and personal change.) As symbolized by their mother’s amateur paleontological pursuits of Koolan fossils, the family grows stronger and, unlike many of its neighbors, begins to consider itself as Koolan and not transplanted Earthmen.

I also liked Tessa’s sense of oppression at having to leave urban collegiate life to return to the farm though I would have liked more details on what she was studying.

The influence of mainstream literature on Jablokov is obvious here. (He reads certain modern literary authors extensively, and their overarching concern for character is obvious here.

While Jablokov, in the story’s blurb, says he hopes to do a series with this character, I think his talents could be put to better use.


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