Review: “Driftglass” by Samuel R. Delaney

5 of 5 stars.

This speculative story imagines a future where mankind has colonized the Moon and Mars and oceans. For the latter, roughly 750K humans have been surgically altered into amphimen to dwell in the Atlantic cities that drill for oil, mine, farm and fish in the deep dark. The undeniable and yet tragic beauty of the tale is its timeless heart.

Juao twisted his shoulders in a complicated shrug which is coastal Brazilian for, “I didn’t know things had progressed to that point, but seeing that they have, there is little to be done.”

Cal Svenson, now 31, is a battered and scarred monster of an amphiman after a tragic accident left his eighteen y.o. cocky self for dead at the Slash, a volcanic ridge off the coast of Brazil. He now finds peace and beauty in hunting the shore for washed up driftglass, the wave-battered and polished remnants of former bottles. He lives a quiet life in a fishing village far from the fast-paced world he was born into and the underwater realm he was chosen for. His best friend is native Brazilian fisherman Juao, a widower-father of two kids chosen for amphiman-alteration. For Juao, the amphiman culture is foreign and dangerous, but he is supportive of his kids who are to leave for the institute soon.

[Cal] “What are you thinking about?”
[Juao] “That it’s time to go fix nets. Tomorrow morning I will fish.” He regarded me a moment. “Where should I fish tomorrow, Cal?”
“Are you wondering about . . . sending the kids off today?”
He shrugged. “Fishermen from this village have drowned. Still it is a village of fishermen. Where should I fish?”

Cal finds out that a new mission has been planned to complete that challenging energy hook-up in the Slash that he failed at as a young man. A new young celebrity, 19 y.o. Tork, has been chosen for the occasion. Tork, a family-less Filipino, wants to meet Cal on the eve of the mission . . .

This story appears in the latest anthology edited by Paula Guran, Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, published by Prime Books. “Driftglass” first appeared in If (1967).
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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