The Godwhale

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The Godwhale
Cover of first edition (paperback)
AuthorT. J. Bass
CountryUnited States
SeriesThe Hive series
GenreScience fiction novel
PublisherBallantine Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages281 pp
Preceded byHalf Past Human 

The Godwhale is a science fiction novel by American novelist T. J. Bass, first published in 1974. It is the sequel to Half Past Human. The book was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1974. The novel deals with genetic and biological inventions with a strange and mystical twist.

The Godwhale presents a view of a far-future Earth in which almost all non-human life has been exterminated due to rampant overpopulation, and most human beings have been transformed into weak, docile, diminutive creatures via genetic engineering and extensive reliance on automation and artificial intelligence. Bass utilizes extensive biochemical and medical terminology in the narrative, and many scenes are quite clinically graphic. It is a cautionary tale on the evolution of technological society, and was published during the emergent period of the US environmental movement.

Plot introduction[edit]

The protagonist, Larry Dever, is gravely injured resulting in a radical surgical procedure, a hemicorporectomy, in which tissue below the waist is removed. He is outfitted with a set of intelligent mechanical legs, a "manniquin", and is placed into suspended animation until the damaged tissue can be restored. He wakes at a time when cloning technology can replace his legs, although for a price. Years before he was awakened, a clone, or "bud child", was created and is now a thriving young boy without language. Horrified by the prospect of his child being sacrificed to provide him with a new lower body, Larry opts to return to suspended animation. His child, Dim Dever, is selected by the guiding world computer, called Olga, to carry his ancient genes to a possible new colony on a planet orbiting Procyon.

Larry awakens again in a nightmare future. Far from the highly advanced past, now an enormous human population (possibly in the trillions) covers every inch of the planet. Technology and science have degraded, and all freely breeding species have been exterminated. The 'Hive' or human population within its computer-supported subterranean culture ruthlessly hunts, kills, and recycles anyone who does not conform.

As Larry is trying to adapt to his new life, without most of his own body or his "cyber" torso, something re-awakens an ancient, half-derelict cyborg, the Godwhale of the title. This enormous 'rake' is an ocean-going biota harvester built in part from a genetically modified blue whale. Initially attempting to rejoin human civilization, the Godwhale (named Rorqual Maru or 'Whale Ship' in Japanese) eventually teams up with a genetically modified clone of Larry, Larry himself, and an assortment of misfits and refugees from the Hive. Together they set out to try to find out what mysteriously brings the marine biota back to the previously sterile oceans, while a tiny group from the Hive, the outcasts, and their cyber deities survive and thrive in the face of incredible bungling by the 'Class One' computer that manages humanity and the various castes of 'Nebish' humans brought into the fight.


Lester del Rey described The Godwhale as "a complex and fascinating novel [and] a fine example of what science fiction is all about."[1] Writing in The New York Times, Theodore Sturgeon simply declared the novel "Good."[2]


  1. ^ "Reading Room", If, June 1974, p.157
  2. ^ "If . . . ?", The New York Times Book Review, April 14, 1974, p.21