Home From the Shore

by Gordon R. Dickson
Series: Sea People 1
Reviewed date: 2018 Apr 5
Rating: 2
221 pages
cover art
cover art

Johnny Joya is the senior class captain of the first class of Sea-Born cadets at the space academy. The cultural difference between the Landers and the Sea-Born lead to misunderstandings and frustrations. The Landers don't understand the respect for life and connection to nature that the Sea-Born possess. In turn, the Sea-Born, well, they just don't understand the evil and violent ways of the Landers. Dickson is not subtle about who the bad guys are.

The Sea-Born cadets take a training flight out beyond Mars, where they participate in a space-bat hunt. As usual during such a hunt, the space bat commits suicide when trapped. This is deeply upsetting to the Sea-Born on a psychic level, and their Lander commander neither understands nor cares. In their written incident reports, the Sea-Born recommend that such hunts cease. They suggest pursuing other, less destructive method of studying the space bats. For this insolence, the Sea-Born are punished.

Back on Earth, one of the Sea-Born is jumped and beated badly by some Lander cadets. Johnny brings the crime to the attention of the base commander, who hems and haws and dithers but is clearly unwilling to do anything about it.

The Sea-Born quit. En masse they walk off the campus and return to the sea.

The Landers won't put up with this, and indeed, over a hundred of the Sea-Born cadets and captured and detained before they can reach the water. Back in the sea, Johnny re-unites with his family and friends, discovers he has a son, and organizes a raid to rescue the imprisoned cadets.

The raid is a failure. Johnny's friend Patrick betrays the Sea-Born, and the Landers are ready with weapons. Many people die, on both sides.

Having started the war, the Landers don't stop. They attack the undersea Castle-Homes of the Sea people, destroying their civilization and killing many. Johnny's wife dies. He takes his son and determines to live at sea, wild and free and at one with nature. This is a good thing, I guess Dickson wants us to believe.

Profusely Illustrated
Dickson makes a big deal about the way this book is illustrated. He worked closely with artist James Odbert to create the pictures that accompany the story. But as talented as Odbert is, the drawings don't add much value. The technical limitations of the format really show: there is no color or even grayscale, it's just black ink on paper, and the small pages of the mass-market paperback are a real constraint. Many of the drawings are unrecognizable blobs. Others are better done, but are not terribly moving. I get the idea that Dickson was hoping for something groundbreaking, but this isn't even as good as a typical comic book or illustrated children's chapter book.

[Home From The Shore] is something not merely entirely new in publishing but in artistic conception.... The result is more than a book. It is a mechanism for the imagination, a magic box that the reader can open and experience for himself, putting himself or herself much more deeply into the life of the story than would otherwise be possible. What you hold in your hand has deliberately been constructed this way, in a fashion not before possible with story and picture.

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