Surfacing by Walter Jon Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Walter Jon Williams is the only writer who regularly gives me the feeling that I'm not actually all that bright. I say this because I've more than once read something of his and known I was missing something, known it would make sense if only I thought at his level.
This novella was one of those. Not until the end, though (I didn't understand how the thing that seemed to be the resolution actually solved the problem the characters faced), and the ride was a good one, even if the characters were, let's say, less emotionally healthy than those I usually prefer to spend my time with.
It's rare to find a really good depiction of alienness in SF, but this novella provides several, at different levels: the whales the main characters have learned to talk to reasonably well, the Deep Dwellers in the ocean of another planet, whose language is less comprehensible to the human mind, and the n-dimensional being who periodically (by arrangement) possesses humans for the sake of the experience. Not to mention the protagonist's insane father, of course, who had his own kind of alienness.
Beautifully written and excellently done, even if I didn't completely understand it.
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