Pod by Laline Paull is an environmental allegory for the ocean today, for the state of the world, the climate and for humanity. The topics are huge. Man’s misuse of the ocean and its creatures. Migration and our treatment of refugees who are different from us. Violence against women. Drug addiction. Selfishness and the betrayal of trust and respect for others. The connections of family and the meaning of home. It reminded me of Watership Down, not read since childhood but which made a lasting impression on me.There are several narratives. The main voice is Ea, a spinner longi dolphin whose inability to hear the music of the ocean prevents her from spinning beautifully. Unable to take part in the annual Exodus ritual, she feels a failure. When tragedy happens in her small pod, she flees and finds herself alone in the ‘vast’. When she joins a huge pod of bigger bottlenose tursiops dolphins, Ea finds a society completely alien to the world she knows. The First Alliance is ruled by lord Ku who, with his second in command lord Split, maintains a strict structure of order using the vira military officers. Devi, first wife and head of Ku’s harem, is a bully who enjoys her power and the hold she has over the co-wives. She plots against rivals and controls the harem’s access to sarpa, the small fish which when eaten have a calming, hallucinogenic effect.
Other voices in Pod include a misplaced humphead wrasse, separated from his kind, who switches gender. A refugee fugu fish who re-starts her cleaning station business in a new unfamiliar home. A prophetic rorqual baleen whale who sings a warning of doom. Google, a dolphin trained, exploited and mis-treated by the military, used by humans as an attack weapon.
And hovering above them all are the anthrops, the humans, recognisable by the noise from their boats and the plastic pollution which the dolphins call ‘moult’. The brutality and cruelty, sometimes unthinking sometimes conscious and glorifying, of man to animals in this book is shaming. Paull doesn’t withhold the brutality of nature, the fights, the sex, the survival of the fittest, the expulsion of the weak who it is assumed will soon die. But there is hope too, the idea that through adaptation, a group can fight to survive. That the oppressed can gain power and strength by combining together.
Quickly read, this book is emotional, shocking and the parallels with the human race are thought-provoking. It has stayed with me long since finishing it.
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Read my review of Laline Paull’s climate change thriller, THE ICE.
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POD by @LalinePaull #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5Dv via @SandraDanby