Weird Fishes by Rae Mariz
Stelliform Press, pb, £11.99
Reviewed by Melody Bowles
Weird Fishes takes us deep beneath the ocean. The two perspective characters, Ceph and Iliokai, are fictional undersea creatures. It follows their friendship as they seek two things: Iliokai’s mother and the cause of the undersea currents slowing down. These journeys, one scientific and one emotional, complement each other nicely.
Ceph is a unique kind of cephalopod, in other words, an octopus or a cuttlefish. She is very proud of her species’ intelligence. Unfortunately, cephalopod politicians are much like ours. They are not interested in listening to scientist Ceph when she tries to warn them of the changes in the oceans.
Iliokai, known as a ‘whalerider’, is more akin to a seal and sometimes described as a mermaid. She wishes to find her mother, who abandoned her. Her talent is telling stories and legends through the medium of song.
The novella is split into short chapters following Ceph and Iliokai’s developing friendship as they undertake their respective missions. It addresses the many evils foisted on the sea by mankind. Coral bleaching, shark fin fishing, industrial trawlers and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch all appear. The topic of rape is addressed twice, highlighting other underwater perils. (Iliokai escapes. Ceph does not.)
Ceph communicates through dance and colour, leading to some fun dialogue tags. The descriptions of her family life give some insight into cephalopods – they can change sex, and pregnancy means death. Meanwhile, Iliokai worries about her parasitic eel friend Mooch. Does he really care about her, or does he just stick around for the food? The alien biology of the characters is wonderfully interesting and lends the story a unique dimension.
An intriguing novella about the cruelties we inflict on our oceans with two compelling characters to journey along with. The descriptions of the underwater environments are full of charm, wit and wonder. I particularly like the crab grandmas. If you have any interest in life under the sea, give this a read.