Cradle by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee
Carol Dawson, a reporter from the Miami Herald, is in Key West claiming she is working on a story about the recent odd behavior of whales. That is part of what she is doing as well as being a cover story. She is also looking for a disappeared Navy missle that went off course during a recent test. She decides to charter a private boat to go diving. She first meets Captain Homer Ashford and his crew on their luxury diving yacht. With an inner shiver of disgust, she gets off his yacht as soon as she can.
She next discovers Nick Williams. He would prefer to avoid Carol, but needs the money. He reluctantly agrees to take her diving. It is Troy, Nick’s assistant, who is able to keep the peace between the two of them. With the advanced technology and imaging machines she has borrowed from the Miami Oceanographic Institute they locate a spot that she thinks would be a good place to dive to “watch some unusual whale activity”. There is unusual whale activity there. There is also a mound and a hole. In the hole Carol and Nick find an unusually shaped golden object; they have found unclaimed treasure.
Meanwhile the Navy is also looking for its missing test missle. The communications and navigations systems had gone off line when it changed from its original flight path. It may have landed in the Everglades. Or it may have landed in the ocean. Or it could have landed anywhere in between. Lt. Richard Todd thinks the Russians sabotaged the missle and have taken it for study. Nobody else in the Navy, including his commander, Cmndr. Vernon Winters, believes him. He is certain he is reading the transmitted results correctly. But no one on Earth has the technology needed to redirect the missle as he suspects.
There is one other group that may be involved with the misdirection of the missel. No human has ever seen or heard of them. The Colony is a large consortium of space faring beings that has been slowly expanding throughout the universe for millenia. One of their activities is to rescue disappearing species from a planet and reseed that species in a compatible environment on another planet. When the reader is not in Florida, she or he is learning more about the Colony, its policies, its history, and its Zoo.
Carol, Nick, and Troy are unprepared for what they find at the bottom of the ocean. Once they accept it, they have a new mission. But how can they carry it out without the interference of Lt. Todd and Cmndr. Winters?
In this science fiction novel, man is exploring the ocean rather than the stars. Clarke and Lee are well known for their realistic science fiction. Cradle is one more example of this knowledge and their work. The overall story line of Cradle is fairly predictable. Clarke and Lee make it interesting and throw in a few unexpected turns as well. Their characters are not flat, but rounded with lives and stories. Except for Troy, the characters don’t quite come to life. The story is good reading although not as riveting as some of their other work, like Rama. This is a good “what if” story that makes the reader think. That’s a good objective for a science fiction novel.
Notice: Strong sexual content