Arthur C. Clarke
The Deep Range (1957)
Reviewed: 1996-01-05

While space, "the final frontier", has become one of the most archetypical elements of science fiction, there is another realm that has captured the attention of both audience and some writers ever since Jules Verne's 1870 classic Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers: the unexplored depths of earth's oceans. Published in the very year when the promise of the space age took on its first tentative manifestation, Clarke paints a picture of humanity having finally conquered the seas in the early 21st century. Harvesting plankton farms, whale cattle, the extraction of metals from the sea water itself, generous application of nuclear power, and a unified world government have brought unprecedented prosperity to all of mankind.

The book loosely follows the life and career of Walter Franklin, a man with an initially mysterious past, who builds himself an entirely new existence, climbing from apprentice to whale warden to ranks of responsibility in the Bureau of Whales. There are a multitude of jobs to do and crises to conquer, like herding whales, hunting down predators, catching or attempting to catch extraordinary or outright mysterious sea creatures, romancing a woman, saving human lifes endangered by an accident, dealing with politics, and adapting the Bureau to a still changing world.

This book is not about battles of global or universal significance, not about good against evil, but about real-world problems in a faintly utopian, lovingly conceived future. All along, the author tries to capture and pass on to the reader the fascination of the sea and pays quite explicit homage to those authors who have so marvelously succeeded in doing this before, Verne and Melville.

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