Lloyd Abbey's futuristic novel The Last Whales (Toronto: Random House, 1989; New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1989) features communicating but non-speaking whales as central characters. It's the chronicle of a mature Blue Whale, driven nearly mad by mercury poisoning and weakened by parasites, as he searches the world's oceans for his mate and their last surviving calf. Abbey researched the novel for ten years. "I put more research into this novel than I did to write my Ph.D thesis on Shelley's poetry," he says. He credits a book he read in his teens, The Last of the Curlews by Fred Bodsworth, as a major influence for the novel. "The image and history of the Blue Whale have occupied my thoughts for many years," he says. "Both its scarcity and its mysterious habits have made the Blue elusive; its fascinating natural history is even now, in many respects, unknown. After six years of intensive research, I attempted in this book to present the Blue Whale as it actually lives, swimming contaminated seas, sometimes with dolphins, usually alone. Human characters enter my book only rarely and, when they appear, are seen only from the viewpoint of dolphins and whales. Environmental disaster, including nuclear war, also appears entirely from the viewpoint of these creatures. The result is that environmental decline is not simply discussed, as in so many books, but rather portrayed from the viewpoint of the victims."

Born in London, Ontario in 1943, Abbey graduated from McMaster University and earned a doctorate in English at University of Toronto. As a Shelley and Keats scholar, the former Simon Fraser University English professor has published Destroyer and Preserver: Shelley's Poetic Skepticism (University of Nebraska Press, 1979). Abbey's fifth poetry collection is an anthology called Selections: 1959-1989 from Cacanadadada Press in Vancouver, since renamed Ronsdale Press. It was preceded by The Antlered Boy (Fiddlehead, 1970; Oberon, 1984) with John Ferns, and Flies (Oberon, 1973), released along with Flight of the Pterodactyl by Gail Fox (Oberon, 1973)

[BCBW 2004] "Environment" "Fiction" "Literary Criticism" "Poetry"