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Race to the Bottom of the Sea: 10/14/17

Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eagar

Race to the Bottom of the Sea by Lindsay Eagar is the next book by the author of Hour of the Bees. This one is set on the high seas and is an odd combination of marine science, piracy, and perhaps steampunk in Jules Verne meets Jacques Cousteau sort of way.

Eleven year old Fidelia Quail is on track to be the next great marine scientist and engineer, just like her parents: the Drs. Quail. All of that is wrenched from her when they are killed in a freak accident brought on by the return of the Undertow, a seasonal influx of waves that make the harbor around Arborley (which I imagined as Passamaquoddy — minus Eliot, of course).

The first few chapters build one set of expectations (though the cover art hints at a better, more accurate one) of when this book is taking place. The Quails have a submarine called the Egg and a research vessel called the Platypus. They have radio communication between the two. But months after her parents' deaths, Fiedlia is kidnapped by Merrick the pirate and taken down to the tropics where she is to use one of her inventions to recover his treasure.

Radio as we know it really got started in the early 1900s with the first transatlantic communication service between Glace Bay, Nova Scotia and Clifden, Ireland in 1907. Submarines as we know them were also being commissioned in the early 1900s. But by 1850, piracy — the type described herein — was done.

Anachronistic pirates aren't a new thing in children's literature. It's just been a while. The last bunch of pirates I recall in a book of similar length are from the Pippi Longstocking series. She was of course, the Pirate King's daughter. I just wasn't expecting them here because of all the marine science and engineering.

All that said about my confusion, I think this novel would translate well to the big screen. I want to see Fidelia's steampunk inventions. I want to see Arborley which may as well be Glace Bay.

I want to see the animals and plants that Fidelia and her parents have discovered and that she continues to discover throughout the book. I want to see the withering effects of the red daisy pollen. I want to see Fidelia try and fail and try again with her inventions until she builds a working prototype. All of these things would translate well to the big screen — or even to the small screen as a Netflix series.

Four stars

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