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Daedalus and the Deep
by Matt Willis
Fireship Press, $18.95, 241pp
Release Date: June 26, 2013
Here is science fiction on the high seas in the age of sail, as a ship of Britain ’s royal navy is detailed to investigate mysterious reports of… something in the waters. Ordinarily, sea monsters would qualify as fantasy, but Willis keeps an evolutionary eye on his story, citing Lamarck’s theories and presenting the sea serpent as a creature with a long memory of her species’ mastery of the oceans. As humans and their ships – including the newfangled steamers – unwittingly challenge that dominion, the sea serpent sets out to discover all she can about these strange monsters.

The story is told alternately from the point of view of the sailors and the serpent, which makes for wonderful narrative. I found my loyalties pulled strongly in opposing directions, for it is impossible not to sympathize with the sea serpent, and I found myself cheering her on. At the same time, the action and characterizations gripped me and I wanted poetic justice and happy endings for my favorites.

On board HMS Daedalus, Captain MacQuarrie is angry that he and his ship are not given the regard he thinks they deserve, nor the opportunities for action and prize money that almost all sailors want. Young Midshipman Colyer, however, has reasons to be glad to avoid wars alarms, and is relieved by the assignment – only to discover that the getting of knowledge can be more dangerous than a naval battle.

Besides the theories of evolution, Willis seems to take an engineer’s delight in the scientific aspects of shipboard life. While this is not steampunk, most steampunk readers will probably enjoy Daedalus and the Deep, as will X-Filers, as the fictional adventure is based on actual events. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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