Wednesday, April 4, 2007

"The Deep Range" (novel): Extend farmlands to seas, with whales as cattle!

Review of the novel titled The Deep Range by Arthur ClarkeThis must be among the best science fiction by anyone - not just Clarke. A very realistic story, even if futuristic.

With increasing human population, where do you grow all the food? While the land is limited, 75% of earth's surface is sea - mostly untapped. This is a story about taking farming to sea.

Story summary (spoiler).
Main story is about cattlization of whales - breeding whales for meat.

A subsidiary story is about plankton plantations - both as fodder for whales, & for processing to make it canned food for humans. But this runs only as background.

A small sub-story deals with milking whales - the way cows & buffaloes are milked today. And processing this milk so you won't get abnormal taste or smell when you get your daily packet, or pick up a carton from a shop.

Story traces the career of hero - from trainee "warden" (a kind of whaleherd - as in a shepherd) to boss of the organization involved in raising whales for meat, with a hint towards the end of also getting into using them as milk animals.

In between, there are some distractions to bring in variety - snaring elusive sea monsters - a giant squid & a big sea serpent; rescuing some oil diggers trapped in an accident inside sea; & how can a Clarke's story be complete without some religion! But these side tracks generally enhance the story, rather than get in the way.

Good reading.

This novel is an expansion of a short story of the same name first published in April 1954 in Argosy (UK), according to Clarke's introduction to the short story in "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke". I haven't read the short story yet.

Fact sheet.
The Deep Range, novel, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
Genre: Science fiction
First published: 1957
Rating: A

See also.

  1. Robert Heinlein's "Ordeal in Space" (1948): That story is effectively a minor plot element in Deep Range - a competent spaceman falls off a spacecraft, is rescued, but is traumatized enough to get acrophobia. Deep Range rehabilitates him as warden; he eventually recovers in Ordeal. Another very good variant of this theme is Clarke's "Maelstrom II".
  2. "The Ghost from the Grand Banks" is another novel by Clarke that deals primarily with seas.

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