I'm trying to identify a novel that I only partially read as a teenager in the early 1980's. At the time I abandoned it as being silly and verging on cheap pulp fiction. I now suspect it was inspired by the real life scientist John C. Lilly and events around his experiments with teaching dolphins to speak, in particular an experiment with an actual dolphin called Peter. Lily was a deeply flawed scientist but was one of the first to recognise the emotional complexity that dolphins are capable of. So, I'm curious to re-read it.

What I remember of the story is:

  • A woman living alone in a specially flooded house with a dolphin. She is talking with the dolphin and has a sexual encounter with it. (This has close parallels to the real life experiment with Peter the dolphin).

  • A male character is concerned that the moon is shrinking or moving away from the orbit of the earth. (This may parallel or be a metaphor for John C Lilly's interest in developing an approach to communicating with extraterrestrials should the human race ever encounter them).

  • I recall a scene early in the novel in which two characters visit a car race.

  • I also recall a scene in which two characters are playing a video game in a hotel lobby or possibly waiting area in an airport and a child starts to imitate the sounds of the video game.

Not much to go on as admittedly I never finished the book. There was a very 1960's or 1970's sort of atmosphere to the book. I recall the cover being blue and featuring an image of a dolphin , a naked woman, and stars.

It is not Dolphin Island by Arthur C. Clark, and I don't believe it is Day of the Dolphin (translated by Helen Weaver from the French source novel). I saw this film many times as a child and though I have not read that book as far as I read in this unidentified novel, there was no similarity in terms of plot. All these stories were inspired by real life scientist John C. Lilly. So, if anyone can identify it or at least suggest a likely candidate novel I would appreciate it.

  • 1
    For what it's worth, the real life female scientist who lived in the flooded house was Margaret Howe Lovatt.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 8, 2017 at 3:00
  • Starpilotsix, Thank you! That's the one. The title rings no bells but I find an extract that I recall reading. Cant find the cover I recall though. Do you want to write this up as an actual answer please?
    – skyjack
    Sep 8, 2017 at 3:27
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    @starpilotsix - a sex scene between a woman and a dolphin?? That's sharknado-esque
    – iMerchant
    Sep 8, 2017 at 5:23
  • It struck me as utterly ridiculous when I read it. I very rarely abandon a book part read. I wonder if its as bad as I recall!
    – skyjack
    Sep 8, 2017 at 7:57

2 Answers 2


This could be Ted Mooney's 1981 novel "Easy Travel to Other Planets"

While I can't be sure this is the cover you remember, it is blue and has both a woman and dolphin (though no stars):

enter image description here

The plot indeed involves a woman living in a flooded house with a dolphin, and they become lovers early in the story.

It took Melissa nearly the full three weeks to grow used to sleeping in the bed in the bed that hung suspended from the ceiling of the flooded house, and even then, even after she had surrounded the bed with shower curtains to protect herself from water either splashed or slapped, she would find herself awake in the night’s stillest hour, listening to the pumps dull pulse as it circulated fresh seawater through the rooms, listening beyond that to the sea’s slow suck as it entered the cove on which the house was built. And from the center of her insomnia she would gaze up through the skylight above her at the meteor showers that streaked the Caribbean sky, and she would think: I am going to die from the strangeness of this. By morning I will be dead of the aloneness and the strangeness.

But when the dawn did come, and with its first light the sound of Peter’s speech—clicks and whistles and high-pitched creaks in an unoiled door as he swam into the elevator’s harness and pushed the start button with his beak, leaving the deep pool on the first floor to greet Melissa on the second and demand his breakfast—when she was again in the knee-deep water with the dolphin, stroking him and preparing him for the day’s first lesson, all her despair slipped away from her like clothes shed, and she was glad of everything.


While I can't find references for all the elements you remember, this article about the book does suggest at least one scene at a race track in the first 47 pages:

There’s the blue of common objects, like rugs, sheets, curtains, pool chalk, dresses, shoes, gas burners, silk, even a lizard (18, 19, 177, 37; 64, 241; 152, 239; 140, 213, 237). At the racetrack the cars zoom by in a “blue haze” (47) of “blue smoke” (204).

  • Not the cover I remember but that just may be faulty memory as its been so long. Not that it matters, its definitely the correct book. Thank you!
    – skyjack
    Sep 8, 2017 at 7:55

Are you certain that it is not Lilly's nonfiction book, The Mind of the Dolphin: A Nonhuman Intelligence? It chronicles his experiment, including Margaret Howe Lovatt moving into the flooded house, and her sexual encounters with Peter (which never went further than handjobs, which she felt helped calm him enough so that they could communicate).

The Mind of the Dolphin - Book Cover

“New totally unexpected sequence of events took place,” Lilly noted excitedly. “I feel that we are in the midst of a new becoming; moving into a previous unknown…” As Peter became increasingly gentle, tactile and sensitive to Howe’s feelings he began to “woo” her by softly stroking his teeth up and down her legs. “I stand very still, legs slightly apart, and Peter slides his mouth gently over my shin,” she wrote in her diary. “Peter is courting me… he has been most persistent and patient… Obviously a sexy business… The mood is very gentle, still and hushed… all movements are slow.” Today she talks about the whole experience philosophically: “It was very precious. It was very gentle… It was sexual on his part. It was not sexual on mine. Sensual, perhaps.”

  • Pretty sure its not this. The book I recall was fiction, and since writing the post I now recall the the female character explicitly states that the dolphin has been her lover at one point, indicating that thing went much further than manual relief. As I say it had the feel of a real pulp novel but i'm increasingly convinced that it was based on these events.
    – skyjack
    Sep 8, 2017 at 3:15

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