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It wasn’t until I started reading Allen Steele’s 2000 novel OceanSpace that I realized I’d read it before, and probably not too long after it was originally published.
As I was reading certain scenes, I recalled having read them before. The saving grace was that I didn’t remember what came next, so it was usually a surprise until I got there.
Two-time Hugo winner Steele put a great amount of research into his writing as evidenced by extensive list of sources at the back of the book. I’m also a sucker for diagrams and Steele’s invention of the sea platform Tethys 1 and 2 were great.
So was the writing for the most part. When Steele was dealing with interpersonal relationships, it was a lot like watching the disaster movies that were popular in the 1970s such as “The Towering Inferno” or the “Airport” franchise. In those films, there is a ton of character development before the audience is brought to the action. In the case of “OceanSpace,” the two are intermixed.
The book starts out as if the main theme is going to be the hunt for a sea monster, but ultimately, the monster only has a “supporting actor” role. The main theme seems to be a corrupt scientist’s plot to sell bio-products captured from deep sea hydrothermal vents to a mercenary working for a French pharmaceutical company.
There’s a near disaster at a newly discovered hydrothermal field, moral and ethical dilemmas from betraying trust in the name of greed and the same in the name of lust. The story even includes the protagonist’s teenage niece who ends up in situations no rational person would put her in.
The novel is enjoyable if a bit uneven, and I’m glad I got the chance to revisit it after so many years. Who knows how many books there are just like it, ones I read decades ago and have since forgotten?
The interesting part is apart from the sea monster, this wasn’t really science fiction. I mentioned it was first published in 2000 but the tale is set in 2011. It could easily be an adventure/thriller using modern technology.
I originally put Steele on my reading list because of a person I’ve encountered before. A lot of the SciFi twitterverse treats Jason Sanford as if he’s a nice guy and Sanford presents himself that way. But the only time I notice him is when he’s stirring the proverbial pot, first with Baen and now with Steele.
For all I know, Steele said something worthy of being criticized (who doesn’t from time to time?), but Sanford seems to think it’s his mission to discredit otherwise talented publishers and authors. Then again, twitter is made for snarky opinions and attention getting.
The benefit of his behavior is that it turned me on to Baen Books and now, to rediscovering Steele’s novels. Thanks for that, Jason.