this is the 83rd in my series of forgotten books
The Deep Range by Arthur C. Clarke © 1957, Signet 1964 mass market paperback (second printing), – science fiction – cover painting by Paul Lehr
According to the note inside, I read this one in September 1964. I didn’t put a grade down for it, as I sometimes did, but that means nothing. Honestly I didn’t remember a darn thing about the book, though it’s easy to tell from the cover art by Paul Lehr that it takes place in the sea.
Walter Franklin was a senior crewmember on the space vessel Antares when he had to go outside to repair an antenna knocked askew by a small asteroid. His suit rocket got stuck wide open and he sailed off into cold, empty space out of control and expecting to die by oxygen starvation after several hours in the cold reaches of space.
He was rescued, four hours later, but it was the last time he would ever go into space. The trauma was deep and seemingly permanent. So the psychological staff treated him as best they could and he was returned to Earth to start a new life, leaving his wife and two sons on Mars. All this is briefly told in flashbacks throughout the first half of the book.
Franklin was put through a special course to become a Warden in the Bureau of Whales. The sea was being harvested for it’s food and mineral wealth, and – along with plankton farms – whales play a big part, for milk, oil, meat. Wardens keep watch over the herds and keep away predators. It’s an underwater, exciting job, and the sea provides a kind of security the very opposite of space.
The book follows the career of Franklin from raw rookie through Second Warden, First Warden, Chief, then on into the bureaucracy and finally to head of the Bureau. There are some exciting adventures, some dangerous encounters with sea life and the equipment that can be deadly if not properly handled, there are under-sea rescues, a light love story, challenges and rewards.
Yes, this is science fiction, nothing like what is depicted here existed in 1957 and still doesn’t, but the equipment Clarke describes is a lot closer to becoming real– and some already has – certainly much of the undersea submersible equipment is in use today. Clarke as usual had a good eye for future technology.
A very different science fiction book, almost more of an adventure tale. I found myself thinking a few times as I read it that it would make a pleasing audio book. There was one done in 1980, on cassette, a special library edition, which may be out there somewhere. Though how many people still have cassette players? If you’re looking for something different in science fiction, light but interesting, this may be one worth trying. I enjoyed it.
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links to all of this weeks Forgotten Book posts can be found
on Patti Abbott’s blog, Pattinase