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Weird Fishes, by Rae Mariz

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Rarely, if in fact ever, have I encountered such a classic “she’s an x, she’s a y, they fight crime” structure of a novella. Ceph is a squid-like organism from the ocean depths, a scientist among her people! Iliokai is a whale rider, a shapeshifting song-weaver of the sea, concerned about the changes around her and her inability to find any others of her kind. Together, they fight [the] crime [of ocean pollution and temperature increase]!

Mariz’s notes after the novella make it clear that the creatures of the very deep ocean were a major inspiration for this novella, and I cannot help but approve: I too think that they are majorly neglected as weird muses for speculative fiction. More creatures of the utter depths, more! Gender-shifting cephalopod sibling colonies that tyrannize the crabs, sure, why not! Bring on the urchins and the anemones and the coral and the stuff that’s far deeper and weirder!

The thrust of this book’s argument is very linear. If you might read environmentalist fiction at all, you will not be surprised by the positions it takes on microplastics, free floating ocean garbage, warming the seas, or homo sapiens in general. But its moments of warmth with the parasite(/symbiote?) and unlikely friendships from different zones of the ocean make it worth the price of admission.

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