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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Out of the Deeps by John Wyndham

Out of the Deeps - John Wyndham

Sometimes when I finish a book I think back and wonder how in the world the author filled so many pages. Out of the Deeps is like that. It's one of those stories in which a great deal happens -- and yet not much happens at all. On the one hand, it's about aliens who take up residence in the deepest parts of the world's oceans and the inevitable war with mankind that results. On the other, it's about a husband and wife team of radio news reporters who, for the most part, take it all in stride. Countless millions of people die; the wife suffers a minor injury to one arm.

John Wyndham keeps his distance here, but that isn't always a bad thing. I appreciate how months and years pass, just as they might if this were real life. I appreciate how the main characters aren't always facing life or death situations, a conceit that few authors are willing to eschew, despite (all too often) its improbability. And I appreciate this book.

But I would have liked it a whole lot more if it weren't so bloody genteel. Out of the Deeps (or The Kraken Wakes in its original British edition) may be the quietest apocalypse on record.

Again, though, we find something to appreciate. Published in 1953, at a time when one intelligent woman encounters the word "ecology" and wonders what that might be, this book puts a very contemporary spin on disaster. As another character points out, alien invasion need not follow the pattern of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds. It could happen, as we discover, rather quietly and over a long period of time.

Still, for all the worldwide calamity, the book lacks drama. The central characters are happily married successful professionals, and that never changes. Sure, the wife breaks down and cries a time or two, but that's about it. One time she gets surly, prompting what may be the best line in the book, a reference to a personal catastrophe that, unfortunately, seems to have had no other effect on either of them. Their capacity for stoicism is all very British, I suppose.

On a happier note, I read the US edition, which features a modified ending. The original UK edition, according to Wikipedia, is "less bleak." Which, to me, translates as less interesting. So there's that anyway.