The culture of cetacean research is cheerfully lampooned in this antic seventh novel from the Tom Robbins/Douglas Adams–like author of Lamb (2002) and other gag-filled romps.
The setting is the coast of Maui, where marine biologist Nathan Quinn, his associate Clay Demodocus, and lissome research assistant Amy Earhart are studying the “songs” of humpback whales. The tone is breezy, and the plot quickly fishtails into agreeable absurdity. Rude invective is detected on the thrashing flukes of a frequently sighted specimen. “Old Broad” resident Elizabeth Robinson claims to communicate with whales (one requests a pastrami-on-rye sandwich). “Ersatz Hawaiian” boathand “Kona” is jailed (after Quinn’s office is vandalized), and narrowly escapes the amorous attentions of a gigantic Samoan detainee. So it goes. Clay and Amy become disconnected from their boat during a dive and are feared lost. Nathan is “eaten by a giant whale ship,” reluctantly bonds with a super-race of piscatorial mutants, meets “the mysterious overlord of an undersea city,” and eventually learns—from a radically transformed old acquaintance—what all the singing is really about. Few readers will be surprised to learn that all this is (rather stagily) thematically related to the integrity of the ecosystem and the punishments nature is storing up for humans who have slaughtered whales and otherwise traduced the natural order. Moore is far from at his best when thus veering into sermon mode, but he’s a facile, entertaining writer, and has infectious fun hacking away at such targets as Canadian hockey violence, “whale huggers,” the US Navy’s shortsighted appropriation of oceanic resources for covert tests and experiments, cetacean sexual peccadilloes, supertankers, and a whole lot more.
Smooth as a piña colada, and just about as substantial. Still: let Moore be Moore, and he will show you a good time.