In the mid-20th century, Griffith lives in the West Indies with his father, a famous scientist who studies marine biology. Griffith, who helps his father with his research, thinks the work is pretty boring. He hopes to go back to America soon to attend the Air Force Academy.
Griff suddenly becomes more interested in his father’s work when something in the sea starts attacking ships near the island he lives on. Some people think it’s a dupee, others think it’s a Russian submarine. When a large radioactive sea creature washes up on shore, the octopi begin acting weird, and the American Navy arrives to build a facility they aren’t allowed to talk about, the islanders become worried. Not only are they concerned about the environmental effects on the reef, but they are also nervous about their island being caught in the middle of a Cold War that seems to be heating up.
Fortunately, Griff has skills and connections that are now very useful. As their carefree island life begins to disintegrate and they must contend with a myriad of natural and possibly even supernatural disasters, our hero has an important part to play in trying to save not only the island, but perhaps the entire world.
Sea Siege (1957) is an unusual story for Andre Norton. The island setting, the real-world history, and the focus on diving and boating are all uncommon in her stories. I found this refreshing and, actually, a little bit frightening because my own teenage daughters happened to be working towards their diving certifications at the time I read this book. Norton successfully highlights both the pleasure and the inherent danger of the sport. There are several frightening diving scenes in which people die (see the cover!). In fact, much of the story is tense and terrifying.
The end of Sea Siege is left open with unanswered questions and no resolution. While some readers may find this unsatisfying, it didn’t bother me at all. The story was written at a time when Americans were afraid of Russia and were concerned about the unknown consequences of a nuclear war. I view Sea Siege as a product of those fears.
Sea Siege is a stand-alone novel that has been packaged with another stand-alone called Star Gate in From the Sea to the Stars by Baen (print, 2009) and Tantor Media (audio, 2021). Tantor’s audio’s edition is very nicely narrated by Stephen Borne. As I’ve said before, I’m so pleased that Norton’s stories are finally making it to audio!