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The Day of the Dolphin
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message 1: by Jen (new)

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
Place holder. Anyone want to moderate this discussion?


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... | 894 comments I just picked this one up from the library, so I am hoping to participate! :)


message 3: by Kristel (new) - added it

Kristel (kristelh) | 4183 comments Mod
The Day of the Dolphin by Robert Merle is Day of the Dolphin (Un animal doué de raison – lit. A Sentient Animal) is a 1967 science fiction thriller novel by French novelist Robert Merle. The plot concerns dolphins that are trained to communicate with humans, and their use in warfare. The central character is a government scientist with similar ideas to those of John C. Lilly.

The English translation of the novel was published in 1969 with the title The Day of the Dolphin, which is not a literal translation of the French title.


message 4: by Kristel (new) - added it

Kristel (kristelh) | 4183 comments Mod
Questions will be generic as I have not read the book yet and there are none to be found on line.

1. Who is our protagonist. What do we know about him. (Name, age, era, locale, social class, family, occupation.) Why do you think the French author chose to make the main character an American. I searched John C. Lilly and he is a real person and may be who the protagonist is based on.

2. What change(s) occur to the protagonist during the course of the novel? (Fortune, moral character, or knowledge).

3. The novel has been called “Ian Fleming with a heart”. What does this mean?

4. The novel is science fiction. What questions of probability arise in the novel? How is the likelihood established in the novel. Are the events of the novel made sufficiently probable to support its total design?

5. What ideas does this novel stress? What kind of behavior makes for lasting worth or waste? What specific social problems does the author regard?

6. This book was hard to find, out of print. Is this an important book to the development of literature? If yes, why? If no, why do you think the editors chose to include the book.

7. Disney made a movie of the book? Have you see the movie?

8. Reviews and ratings? Tell us what you think.


Tatjana JP | 294 comments I finished The Day of the Dolphin. SPOILERS
[I was enjoying the first part of the book which was mainly focused on the main character Professor Sevilla and his associates who are training their dolphins Fa and Bi to communicate with people in English. Still, the second part of the book is focused on the (ab)use of this discovery. It turns to be a criticism of the US foreign policy of that time and was a bit annoying. It this part it was a bit of a James Bond (including guns, spies and helicopters), but not even close to be that funny.
The book seems a bit outdated while written during 60s. That can partly answer the question on why protagonists and the story are situated in the US, because the main issue in the book was what US government did/would do to dolphins once they started to talk. Still, I find it to be too exaggerated.
Finally, I loved the idea of this kind of research within animal world, especially including highly intelligent animals like dolphins. But teaching them so easy to talk English only to ask them what they think of the foreign policy. Hmm.... Disappointing.]
My rating was 2.5, at the end 3 for Goodreads.


Tatjana JP | 294 comments I am again failing with this spoilers... What I am doing wrong?


Gail (gailifer) | 1456 comments I just started this book. I am having a difficult time getting past the 1967 descriptions of the characters: “ her whole ripe, slender body had swayed gently at the hips, she was so round, so soft, so smooth that she gave the word “baby” new meaning,...”.
Yuck.


message 8: by Liz M (last edited Aug 09, 2018 02:10PM) (new) - added it

Liz M | 194 comments Tatjana wrote: "I am again failing with this spoilers... What I am doing wrong?"

Wrong brackets? {spoiler} text {/spoiler},
replacing curly brackets with angle brackets: > <


Tatjana JP | 294 comments Liz M wrote: "Tatjana wrote: "I am again failing with this spoilers... What I am doing wrong?"

Wrong brackets? {spoiler} text {/spoiler},
replacing curly brackets with angle brackets: > <"


I'll try next time ...
Thanks a lot!


message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 12, 2018 09:40AM) (new)

1) Main protagonist - Henry - the most obvious things about his character are that he is gentle and non-political. He has to be like this to be sensitive and focused enough to bond with his dolphins.
American because that is the country at the forefront of this research & because of the issue of the Vietnam War & competitive research/development with Russia.
Lilly was a real character who tried to teach dolphins English - I saw a short video with his assistant on YouTube with the recordings of the 'dolphin speak' (very interesting!).

2) Positive changes - increased fortune, recognition for successful development of his work - but also a real understanding of state 'control'/spying. This was the factor that led to some unhappiness in his personal life.

3) Henry wasn't quite as suave as James Bond :o) but as I'd stated above he needed a sensitivity to understand his dolphins' language & needs. He saw them as close to human rather than as weapons or pets.

4) Up to the point of the dolphins speaking fluent English I found it easy to believe and it even had me Googling whether dolphins could actually talk with humans. So it didn't feel like a Science Fiction to me.

5) It was implied that 'purer' animals like dolphins actually have a better appreciation & understanding of how to life a fulfilling life.

6) I enjoyed the style of the prose but thought it was more the subject matter that made it important to be included on the List. It is a shame it is out of print but perhaps it is because politics have moved on. To me it wasn't a pure Science Fiction read or purely historical therefore it probably fell out of popularity because it sat somewhere in-between these two and its category distinction was blurred. I enjoyed it though and would recommend it.

7) I can't find the movie to watch it but I won't be looking harder for it as apparently it's not like the book very much at all.

8) My review (4 stars):

(view spoiler)


message 11: by Gail (last edited Aug 12, 2018 10:04PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gail (gailifer) | 1456 comments 1. Henry is an American but his roots are ambiguous in that he doesn't know his ancestry and furthermore doesn't care. We learn this from those who did research on him and his response to that research. He thinks of himself as 100% American and says on the first page that his grandfather was from Gallicia. He has children he is estranged from and he fought in the war. I think that the intent of the book was to shine a light on the global policies of the US and therefore the protagonist and the lab setting needed to be in the US.

2. What change(s) occur to the protagonist during the course of the novel? (Fortune, moral character, or knowledge).

He is rewarded for his work by the satisfactory results of that work and even more by the relationship he builds with his subjects and his co-workers. He also gains fame and fortune but in a funny way, that makes him more American. The character appreciates the freedom to do his own research that fame and fortune gives him but he is not really interested in the money for its own sake. He is portrayed as a sensitive man from the start and this sensitivity is heightened by some of the failures in the book and by the controlling nature of the government as it is portrayed in the book.

3. The novel has been called “Ian Fleming with a heart”. What does this mean?

It has some of the formatting of a spy novel in that the enemy has crazy technology at their fingertips, extreme situations are portrayed, in particular doomsday scenarios, and there is a love story thrown in for good measure. However, the story really resolves around the dolphins and they are truly optimistic characters and wouldn't fit in a Bond film.

4. The novel is science fiction. What questions of probability arise in the novel? How is the likelihood established in the novel. Are the events of the novel made sufficiently probable to support its total design?

I felt that the beginning of the book seems quite realistic but about half way through it became too extreme and did fall into the category of science fiction and in a particularly dated way. I think the book portrayed some wonderful real responses though. It predicted some reaction to 9/11 for example and it hinted at what would happen to the moral fiber of the country when they failed to win a foreign war which had not yet happened in 1967 when it was published. It also spoke to the nature of bureaucracy and the in-fighting that happens when there is a power vacuum in a bureaucracy. In this way, it reminded me of some of the bureaucracy of the Nazi Government in The Kindly Ones (which I am also reading now).

5. What ideas does this novel stress? What kind of behavior makes for lasting worth or waste? What specific social problems does the author regard?

Although we appreciate and respect Henry, we really are drawn to the good heart of the dolphins and their simpler but more pure judgement. They correctly identified the bad guys and were able to overcome making that assessment across all humans when they understand that they had not been betrayed by everyone.

6. This book was hard to find, out of print. Is this an important book to the development of literature? If yes, why? If no, why do you think the editors chose to include the book.

I think it fell out of print because it has a particular kind of datedness. Ian Fleming, for example, is equally extreme and dated but because the bad guys are individuals and monsters and extremists you can still see that world as contemporary. In Day of the Dolphin, Merle is talking about the US and how it was losing its way as it heads into war in Viet Nam. It does not have a particularly well understood analysis of that war but rather it is about a nation that will go to extremes to save its concept of itself as the top dog. The country has moved on from that although there is still much to be learned from those times, I just think that the book doesn't capture those times well nor allow the conditions to be contemporary. Also, the science is not believable although perhaps it never was. The navy does train and use Dolphins to mark mines and they use sea lions to attach lines to retrieve things that have sunk but I do not believe that anyone would think that you can train one to speak English.

7. Disney made a movie of the book? Have you see the movie?

Nope.

8. Reviews and ratings? Tell us what you think.

I gave it three stars. It was a fast read. I appreciated the characters of our protagonists (Ma and Pa) and of Bi and Fa. I even appreciated all the ancillary characters with their unique flaws and foibles. I just didn't think it pulled off the action sequences in any way and ultimately I didn't think it held together as a whole especially the philosophical discussions put in the mouths of the mammals. Having swum with dolphins in a marine world situation, I know that they don't actually like just anyone touching them, and that these very intelligent mammals are as varied as any intelligent mammal in terms of their personality and their approach to other creatures including "us".



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message 12: by Book (new) - rated it 3 stars

Book Wormy | 2029 comments Mod
1. Henry Sevilla is the man character he is a man without a past as he doesn't know his family history this means that he has no loyalty to any particular country and that he is free to be neutral. He is seen as American as he lives and works in America and it is the government that funds his research.

2. He becomes a father to the dolphins rather than a scientist, he learns to stand up for himself and becomes a tough negotiator and he falls in love.

3. It is a spy novel hence Ian Fleming while the dolphins and their humanity give it heart.

4. The early parts of the novel are believable as is the idea of mines as similar things were actually used in war (Russian dogs trained to drop bombs under tanks). The early use of language all felt real to me it was when the dolphins became fluent in English that it become science fiction and for me it was unbelievable.

5. It stresses the ideas that war is wrong, that a peaceful solution should be sought and that mutually assured destruction benefits no one. It questions American foreign policy and finds it lacking.

6. I think this book was included as it captures the feeling of the cold war era. The mistrust between countries, the agencies spying on each other, the underhand behaviour etc. It also features intelligent talking dolphins and really who could resist that.

7. No

8. 3 Stars from me I really enjoyed the early parts of the book where the dolphins are just learning basic language that all felt believable to me. When we got later into the book and the dolphins were fluent in English and questioning human behaviour it fell apart as I just couldn't suspend belief.


message 13: by Kristel (new) - added it

Kristel (kristelh) | 4183 comments Mod
1. Who is our protagonist. What do we know about him. (Name, age, era, locale, social class, family, occupation.) Why do you think the French author chose to make the main character an American. I searched John C. Lilly and he is a real person and may be who the protagonist is based on.

I was surprised at how seventy-ness this book was. I thought the characters were a bit stereotyped and women often referred to has girls, etc. I think the French author was making a political statement in this science fiction book which is not unusual in SF and I think it was directed at the US. I was really surprised with the author's viewpoints on the Bay of Pigs and assassination of JKK.

2. What change(s) occur to the protagonist during the course of the novel? (Fortune, moral character, or knowledge). He became disillusioned and suspicious as time progressed.

3. The novel has been called “Ian Fleming with a heart”. What does this mean? The characters in this book did not want to fight and kill. Fleming's James Bond is a killing machine.

4. The novel is science fiction. What questions of probability arise in the novel? How is the likelihood established in the novel. Are the events of the novel made sufficiently probable to support its total design? The novel is a political statement. The dolphins are over the top unbelievable but at the time, scientist were researching dolphin language. So it was relevant to time. Beside everyone was watching Flipper and in love with dolphins.

5. What ideas does this novel stress? What kind of behavior makes for lasting worth or waste? What specific social problems does the author regard? The book is addressing war, armament, distrust of government, governments disregard for life and environment.

6. This book was hard to find, out of print. Is this an important book to the development of literature? If yes, why? If no, why do you think the editors chose to include the book. I don't think as far as lit goes that it is terrible important but for me, reading Libra and this book in the same month had a big impact. I grew up during this time period and that made it more relevant than it would be to those born after the cold war.

7. Disney made a movie of the book? Have you see the movie? I don't remember if I have and I am sure it was not that good as far as Disney movies go.

8. Reviews and ratings? Tell us what you think. I rated it 3.3. It simply was not that readable.


message 14: by Pip (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pip | 1434 comments 1. Professor Henry Sevilla is a marine biologist investigating the intelligence of dolphins in Florida in the 1970's. He is uninterested in his background but we know that one of his grandmothers comes from Galicia, but we are not told if this is the one in Poland or the one in Spain. On second thoughts, it is probably Spain, given his name. He has a failed marriage and is estranged from his children and is something of a womaniser. It is not clear that he IS an American, but as the theme of the book is to satirise the USA it makes sense for it to be set there.
2. He makes a lot of money from a book he publishes with the help of a mysterious agent. He has an affair with his assistant that we assume survives the book's end. He is not interested in fame or fortune and is appalled by the inter-agency rivalry he is exposed to. He will not compromise his principles as a pacifist despite the increasing danger he faces.
3. James Bond was a womaniser who faced dark forces and outwitted them, as was Sevilla, but there the similarity ends, in my opinion. Sevilla was a pacifist, Bond was a killer. Fleming wrote to entertain, Merle's purpose was to criticise the Cold War, the American propensity for violence and (still apposite now) the use of fake news. Hence the remark that this book had a heart.
4. The ability of the dolphins to speak, for a start. Once Fa started speaking in sentences my interest waned. There has been, however, research done on using dolphins in warfare, and who knows how much they have been deployed. The attacks on Sevilla, his team and the dolphins seems farfetched, but drone strikes today remind us that dark deeds are perpetuated daily in the name of nationalism.
5. The main theme is that violence is justifiable, presidents can be manipulated, secret services are not altruistic and the Cold War and the Vietnam War are indefensible. I was astounded to find out when I had finished that the book was published in 1967, so it was set in the near future, and was eerily prescient.
6. It WAS difficult to find. I had a tatty copy sent from the States. I wonder whether it was the idiosyncratic punctuation, which may have been avant garde in 1967, or the satire itself which commended it.
7. No
8. This book was written in French by a man who had served as an interpreter to the British Expeditionary Force, been evacuated from Dunkirk, captured by the Nazis and escaped only to be turned in by Belgian customs officers. After what he had been through it is no wonder that he was appalled by the posturings of the Cold War. In Day of the Dolphin he uses the experiments done with dolphins to criticise the cruelty and corruption of state agencies, particularly those of the U.S. which was in ascendancy in the 60's. Dolphins are described as having better morality and compassion than humans. The style and subject matter were more entertaining in the first part of the book than when the forces of evil enter the story. As a thriller it had me falling asleep just when the crisis was about to occur.


message 15: by Kristel (new) - added it

Kristel (kristelh) | 4183 comments Mod
Pip wrote: "1. Professor Henry Sevilla is a marine biologist investigating the intelligence of dolphins in Florida in the 1970's. He is uninterested in his background but we know that one of his grandmothers c..."

Well done Pip, some interesting insights. I did not know those details about the author.


message 16: by Diane (last edited Aug 31, 2018 05:44PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane  | 2050 comments This book took me forever to read since the only copy I could obtain was a circa 1970 mass-market with yellowed pages and tiny print. I could only tolerate it in small doses.

1. Who is our protagonist. What do we know about him. (Name, age, era, locale, social class, family, occupation.) Why do you think the French author chose to make the main character an American. I searched John C. Lilly and he is a real person and may be who the protagonist is based on.

Henry Sevilla. A middle-aged, divorced American male of Spanish descent (probably second-generation). He is a brilliant scientist, successful, honest, and has a conscience. Era: late 60's. I think Merle chose to make the protagonist and setting American since it was written during the Cold War and the US was a major world power during that time. This book had a tremendous Cold War vibe.

2. What change(s) occur to the protagonist during the course of the novel? (Fortune, moral character, or knowledge).

He pulls off a very successful experiment and develops strong relationships with the dolphins and his research partners. He learns the truth about the plans of government agencies for his research. He decides to take a risk to do what he feels is right, despite the danger.

3. The novel has been called “Ian Fleming with a heart”. What does this mean?

The importance of doing the right thing is a theme seen in both the protagonists and the dolphins. It isn't about killing in the way Bond is.

4. The novel is science fiction. What questions of probability arise in the novel? How is the likelihood established in the novel. Are the events of the novel made sufficiently probable to support its total design?

I found much of it far-fetched, especially in regard to the dolphins, so low probability.

5. What ideas does this novel stress? What kind of behavior makes for lasting worth or waste? What specific social problems does the author regard?

I think Book summed this up perfectly in her response.

6. This book was hard to find, out of print. Is this an important book to the development of literature? If yes, why? If no, why do you think the editors chose to include the book.

The blend of sci-fi and thriller may have been a novel idea at the time, although I'm not entirely sure. I found the inconsistent use of quotations experimental and annoying. I still question its inclusion on the list.

7. Disney made a movie of the book? Have you see the movie?

No.

8. Reviews and ratings? Tell us what you think.

It was just okay for me. I don't feel that it sufficiently stood the test of time. Overall, the subject matter was intriguing, but not very believable.


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