Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, May 4, 2012

1979: Profundis (Cowper, Richard)

Zany submariner post-apocalyptic adventure (4/5)
From August 16, 2010

The only thing I knew of Richard Cowper was that this name was a pseudonym for John Middleton Murry Jr. and his main claims to science fiction fame were for the romantic Kinship of the White Bird trilogy and his satirical Clone novel. Having never read a Richard Cowper novel, I wasn't sure what to expect, but the rear-cover synopsis sounded zany enough to win me over to purchase it.

Rear cover synopsis:
"KN4/2-034-17/Jones T. (M(AQ)C GRADE 3) is naïve, impressionable and very, very willing. His chief talent is conversing with dolphins in the Aquatic Mammals Division of HMS Profundis, a gargantuan submarine destined to roam the ocean depths for a century following a nuclear holocaust.

Years pass and mad captain succeeds mad captain. Eventually the ship falls under the command of one Admiral Horatio Prood, a kind, understanding man who finally comes to a startling conclusion. He is God the Father. The Almighty Himself. And all he needs now is a Son to sit at his right hand. Enter the innocent Tom Jones of the Aquatic Mammals Division..."

Yes, it's quite a silly novel which is silly from the start when Jones is ordered by his android manager to the office of Commander Bonze, who will determine if he is psychologically fit, by the request of Admiral Prood, who has recently discovered that he is God by simple definition. His computer Profundis is the Holy Ghost by default. Jones is fingered for being chosen as God's son because he exhibits a talent which seems miraculous: he speaks with dolphins. After being brainwashed into preaching the word of the artificial God and acting as His son, Jones is led around the giant ship in a quest to reach as many ears as possible through any means possible.

Cowper offers little tidbits of one-liners which leaves me shaking my head and giggling at the same time: "Her vast bosom shuddered like a harpooned whale." The dialogue is also filled with nonsensical pinging and ponging between dense and childish characters. It's all very light-hearted and has an honest aim at good humor. However, the humor side of the plot tends to pour forth radically idiosyncratic characters which take center stage for a few pages and are never heard from again. It's this point which I find irritating while wanting Cowper to wrap it all up in a nice, big comical gift.

Cowper writes with grace, whim, wit, and intelligence. Profundis has definitely made me a fan. Since reading Profundis, I've read and reviewed the entire Kinship of the White Bird, starting with The Road to Corlay. On my shelves, I also have Clone and the five story collection in Out There Where the Big Ships Go. I'm eager to delve into these juicy morsels of obscure science fiction!

1 comment:

  1. Just picked up a copy of this! Somewhat scared considering the back cover... haha... and my edition's egregious cover at.