Friday, June 06, 2014

Book Review: Daedalus and the Deep

Another entry in the recent wave of sea-creature novels is Matthew Willis' Daedalus and the Deep.
(Cotero Publishing, 2012: 248pp.) It's a unique and rather delightful book.
Willis takes as his starting point a true event, the report of a "sea serpent" by the HMS Daedalus in 1848.  He fictionalizes Captain Peter McQuahe as Robert MacQuarrie, and the other names used are all fictitious. Our protagonist here is Ensign Colyer, a teenage girl passing herself as her dead brother Tom.  Such things did happen in the Royal Navy on occasion, and Colyer is an engaging hero among a crew of well-drawn male characters.
Willis asks what might have happened if the corvette had not merely reported the serpent but chased it hell-bent, determined to secure it for the honor of England, its Navy, and the ship's captain.  Along the way we get all kinds of detail on how such a ship was equipped and sailed in those days. Indeed, there's sometimes a little too much detail, and I found myself skipping occasional paragraphs even though the subject interested me.
While trying not to spoil the plot too much, it's important to say there is a science fiction (one may say fantasy) element throughout this book. It's not by accident that the Daedalus and the creature came together, and their running fight over many days and thousands of miles is driven by the creature as much, or more than, by Captain MacQuarrie. 
The result is a very enjoyable read. Willis writes well: there are only a couple of clunky sentences here and there.  You will put this book down having enjoyed a rousing adventure story, an original slant on the sea serpent motif, and an engaging introduction to the days of sail.  Well done, Mr. Willis.

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