ヨナ・キット (サンリオSF文庫) 文庫 – 1986/5
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A young Russian boy, accompanied by his devoted minder, turns up in Japan and presents a problem to the American security officials who take on his case. For the boy appears to be part of a sophisticated Soviet experiment and to have the mind of a dead astronaut imperfectly imprinted on his own. If the boy is to be believed, then the experiment has been extended to a whale...And in Mexico, ground-breaking research by Nobel Prize winner Paul Hammond and his disparate team has shown that what we perceive as the Universe is no more than the ghost of the real thing. Signals received by his radio telescope show that the Universe God created no longer exists. Then the whales start singing their death-yantra throughout the oceans of the world. --このテキストは、絶版本またはこのタイトルには設定されていない版型に関連付けられています。
Scientists have discovered God created the universe, whose reality was then pulled into some other dimension, leaving ours a false, unreal shadow. This threatens the most basic need of conscious beings to feel they belong to a real world, which in turn threatens the very existence of everything, because what the 'intelligent' majority believes literally becomes the reality for all.
Whales have their own philosophy, their own mystical gatherings, and are evolving (they sense) into beings that will in the far future comprehend the 'whole' truth. A man's consciousness has been grafted onto an individual whale's - the 'Jonah' of the title. Being inside the mind of this not-man/not-whale as it awakens and adjusts to its entirely new consciousness and nature is exhilarating.
Civilization is disintegrating quickly because humanity has chosen to believe in the unreality of everything as proven by science. In an attempt to bring back some sanity the whales are sent - via Jonah - the news that nothing exists. Their much older and wholly integrated understanding is now our only hope for survival - if they can take in the scientific proof and reject or ignore it.
The whales represent the best, most natural and glorious side of ourselves - with the added emotional impact of creaturely innocence. Their reaction to the beliefs of humanity shows us where we are bound when, beguiled and misled by 'thinking', we place abstractions above our instinctual and essential connection with nature.
A good, though slight novel, that made me want to immediately read more of Ian Watson's work.
"The Jonah Kit" is the 'communication with cetaceans' riff on steroids. There's not much of storyline, merely scenes designed to present data, there are no characters, only behavioral tics with names. But those concepts! The first, and most spectacular, is the discovery, through a clever cosmological means I haven't encountered elsewhere, that our universe is a mere reflection of the authentic item, that we're the waterboys of existence, forever cut off from the real game. The second is what the cetaceans do when this fact is communicated to them. They commit mass suicide, every last whale, dolphin, and orca in the deep blue beaching itself in utter existential despair.
Now you may say this makes little sense, and you'd get no argument from me. (The human response is nearly as silly. There is, after all, nothing new in the concept of alienation. Augustine wrote about it in the 5th century, the Greeks even earlier. Most people have developed mechanisms to cope.) But I'd still be inclined to recommend it, if only to a limited audience who can appreciate Watson's ability to sling those concepts.
There's still all those poor dead whales, though, which may well, and understandably, put some people off. Watson has a rep as a tower of humanism. Like many such, he exhibits a streak of pure cruelty evident in much of his work, such as the fate of the protagonist of "The Martian Inca", or the deformed child in "The Embedding". I'm sure there's some rule of thumb that can be derived from that too, if I were to take the time to formulate it.