‘The Whale: A Tale of Galactic Travel and Love’

By Mel Strawn

Salidan Richard Smith has written and made available as a Kindle publication his own space-time offering that is, simultaneously, great, crazy fun and a serious invitation to pay attention to our own times and the space we share.

Set in the early 22nd century, the “Whale” is a corporate coalition-owned space ship of quite colossal size and complexity. It is occupied by a very mixed cohort of earth-based humans, our own homo-sapiens, Homo-caelens (with what I take to be humans but born and nurtured somewhere in outer space (there is, in fact, a constellation called “Caeleus” in our southern skies)), a rather special human type called Choates and a variety of exceptionally advanced and varied AI or Artificial Intelligence entities.

These plus a specially schooled, earth-born human, Cage Gladwyn, an observer whose nom-de-plume is “Truther,” are aboard when the Whale, a test vehicle, suddenly finds itself folded or “warped” into a very different time and space. Imagine the amazing, fanciful creatures and vistas, frightening and, relative to you and me, here and now, pertinent events and possibilities … well, you just have to read it to get it.

This is future fiction, but not so distant. … We already have space ships, AI, robots, drones and information systems based on algorithmically invoked, advanced technology as well as social-economic “systems” perhaps now in extremis. In “Whale,” population overshoot is addressed; (22nd Century Earth population is reduced to some 3 billion from today’s 7.5 as a result of war and habitat-environmental destruction between 2018 and 2100. …).

To give a small taste of the book, this quotation: “Choates were quick, smart, seemed intuitively adapted to zero gravity and smaller than most. Their mortality rate in the dangerous business of mining meteorites was near zero. While fatalities among Homo caelum were fewer than their Homo sapien twins, the Homo caelum still suffered losses at four times the rate of Choates. Choate presence on any deep space crew was valued. And they were funny when they weren’t too emotional.”

The questions of emotional and rational functions and interactions, of love and loss, of ambition and judgment are woven into the fabric of this tale. The overarching problems addressed in the story are, as are our own, those of habitat destruction and the threat of terminal war. Cast several decades in the future, “Whale” is a cosmic tale wagging right here, right now. It invites us to re-arrange our molecules and tag along.