Ocean on Top

by Hal Clement
Reviewed date: 2007 May 16
Rating: 2
141 pages
cover art

In Ocean on Top, an investigator from the Power Board takes a sub down to the sea bottom to hunt for an illegal group of energy wasters. What he finds is breathtaking: a whole nation of people living under the sea, tapping power from the Earth's core. They have energy to spare, and they are not hooked into the global power grid.

The people do not live in a dome city; rather, they've invented a heavier-than-water liquid to fill their living spaces, and have invented a means of oxygenating their blood without breathing air. They can live quite well, immersed in liquid their entire lives. They have no contact with the outside world.

They offer him a choice: leave immediately, or undertake an operation to allow him to stay on the sea bottom. If he stays, he will breathe the heavier-than-water liquid; if he leaves, he will be permitted to tell all he knows--but the Power Board will probably ignore him and his reports. He decides to stay and learn more, and find a way to force these wasters to hook their power into the grid of the power-starved dystopia on the surface.

Ocean on Top is a dull book; the method of undersea life is interesting, but Clement reveals it in dribs and drabs, trying to stretch a novella's worth of worldbuilding into a full novel.

Fun fact: for reasons unknown to anyone except Clement, we never learn the main character's name. We do, however, learn that he hates his nickname.

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