The novel “Medusa’s Children” by Bob Shaw was published for the first time in 1977.
Myrah and her clan survive hard in their water world, always in search of air bubbles to breathe and always in danger of being devoured by the monstrous Horra. Something in that world is changing and to try to understand the causes the only option is a daring expedition into the depths of the water, where it’s said that there’s the realms of the god Ka.
Hal Tarrant has a complicated past and is trying to rebuild his life. Unfortunately, working at sea, he runs into a kind of giant squid and barely escapes from its attack. Trying to figure out where that definitely abnormal creature might come from he ends up discovering much bigger mysteries.
Bob Shaw wrote many novels based on interesting ideas masterfully developed, unfortunately “Medusa’s Children” is not one of them. This novel is based on an interesting idea, which is the existence of a huge sphere of water in space inhabited by a group of human beings. The problem is in the way in which this idea has been developed, in my opinion well below the average of this author’s stories.
Rather early in the story it’s stated that the water sphere was created by a machine built by an ancient civilization. At that point, I’d have expected that the novel would focus on this element, with the search for this machine and maybe of the traces of its creators to understand what had happened to them. On the contrary, the existence of this civilization remains just a hint, a mere narrative device to justify the existence of the water sphere, while the novel is developed in a completely different direction.
The first part of “Medusa’s Children”, with the story of the life of Myrah and her Clan in their strange water world, is good because there’s a sense of wonder in the story of that environment which in some ways alien. Bob Shaw tells the problems of the clan in surviving in that situation and it’s appropriate to say that he helps the reader to plunge into that lifestyle.
In my opinion, however, the novel focuses too much on the Horra and the fight against those monsters by the humans and on other elements that emerge in the second part. In particular, the part of the novel set on Earth is developed in a way that I found of very little interest considering the foundations laid in the beginning.
Even the characters, usually another of the strengths in Bob Shaw’s stories, in “Medusa’s Children” are rather weak. Myrah, the first character introduced in the novel and the protagonist of its first part, disappears completely about half-way of the story. Hal Tarrant, who eventually is the true protagonist, for much of the novel seems little more than a sex maniac.
It’s a shame because even in “Medusa’s Children” Bob Shaw included interesting elements such as climate change, certainly not common in a novel of the ’70s, and a future world in which at least part of today’s nations are fragmented. In short, there were the basis for another of the many good stories this author gave us but this time but I think the result was negative.
I can only think that “Medusa’s Children” was written during a period in which Bob Shaw suffered from particularly strong migraines or in one in which he drank even more than usual or had both of these problems. It’s possible that he had a deadline to meet and his publisher still accepted the novel because at that time Shaw was a famous author so it would’ve sold anyway.
In my opinion, overall “Medusa’s Children” is definitely one of the worst novels written by Bob Shaw and I’m talking about an author I like. It’s obvious that I can’t recommend buying it, on the contrary unless you’re a fan of this author and you want to have all of his novels I recommend leaving it.