Odyssey of a Navy Dolphin

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
452 Pages
Reviewed on 05/17/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite

While listed as fiction due to the incorporation of a story line involving fictional characters, Alika: Odyssey of a Navy Dolphin by Donald E. Auten reads more like a non-fiction account of animal training and the use of marine mammals in war-time maneuvers. Beginning with the rescue of the baby dolphin by a teenage girl in Florida, and his eventual admission to the Navy Marine Mammal Program, this story not only details the amazing ability of these mammals, but also the special mental focus and sensitivity required for a person to successfully interact with animals.

The focus then switches to a horse farm in Wyoming where Brent Harris is introduced. Brent has a special way with all animals, and his ability, along with instruction and oversight from his father’s master horse trainer, allows him to successfully train a horse another rancher was ready to put down for being too dangerous. Wanting something more out of life after visiting family in California where Brent is introduced to the sea and the intelligence of dolphins, he enlists in the Navy. A great amount of detail is included regarding Brent’s training for and activity as a Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman. Brent hears about the Navy Marine Mammal Program and switches specialties, and the majority of the book is then devoted to his work there and eventual deployment for active duty in the Middle East.

Dialogue and the interaction of the crew members with one another as well as with their dolphins make this story easy to follow and more enjoyable to read than a simple non-fiction account of the activities related in the text. With the added love interest when Brent meets Katie, the girl who saved Alika, there is even more of an emotional pull to add appeal and excitement. Well written and extremely informative, Alika: Odyssey of a Navy Dolphin covers a tremendous amount of information, but following Brent and his relationship with the orphaned dolphin ties it all together and keeps you engaged. Donald E. Auten has certainly researched all the material in the book extensively and provided a wonderful story that will make you laugh, cry and experience the wonder of these amazing mammals – dolphins.

K.J. Simmill

Petty Officer 3rd Class Brent Harris had a dream; one that, until recently, he had thought impossible. Since the age of sixteen he had wanted to work with dolphins, but he never thought he would be fortunate enough to become involved in the Navy's Marine Mammal Program. His life had shaped him for this, twisting his path and increasing his love for dolphins, and he developed an affinity with these creatures. Training Thunder had stirred something within him, and from that moment on he dreamed of such work. He felt a pull to them, yet instead he found himself rising through the ranks of the Navy. Now it seemed that, as he had envisioned, joining the Navy had not only taken him back to the sea where his experience with a pod of dolphins had forever changed him, but it was guiding him towards his dream. Follow his adventure in Donald E. Auten's Alika: Odyssey of a Navy Dolphin.

Alika: Odyssey of a Navy Dolphin by Donald E. Auten is a historical fiction story focusing on the Navy's Marine Mammal Program. Written at a steady pace, readers will find this to be an interesting, insightful, and immersive tale. I thought this was a beautiful read, a heartfelt story about loyalty, love, and kinship. I really enjoyed watching Brent's growth, from the moment he first discovers his passion to his introduction to Alika and a seemingly destined encounter with Kate. You will easily lose yourself in this wondrous and insightful tale, and you may even learn a thing or two about not only the nature of animals, but that of people as well.

Neil A White

I’ve just had the pleasure of reading Alika: Odyssey of a Navy Dolphin, by Donald E Auten, and cannot recommend it highly enough. The story centers around an Atlantic bottle nose dolphin, named Alika, that is orphaned and found stranded in the mudflats of Florida by a young girl and her brother. After his rescue, Alika is shipped to San Diego for treatment and rehabilitation, then entered into the Navy Marine Mammal Program, where he is taught to locate mines and patrol the waters for enemy divers. His training is at the hands of Brent, a naïve young cowboy from Wyoming, and the two quickly become inseparable.

The setting for the novel is the period leading up to the second Gulf War, and as Alika’s training reaches completion, storm clouds gather. At this time, we are reintroduced to Katie, a marine biology student. Katie is the young girl who saved Alika seven years previously. The reunion between Katie and Alika will have you reaching for the Kleenex. And the budding romance between Katie and Brent smiling with the simpatico of it all. However, the world isn’t always a perfect place and darker days are ahead.

Mr. Auten’s naval background predominates in the storytelling and although his novel is rich in detail, extensively researched and quite technical at times, with his smooth writing style at the controls it never comes across as overbearing or condescending. In fact, his attention to detail in creating and building the characters within the story works so well that the finale will have you wiping away a tear and hugging your family pet, or your neighbor’s - if pet-less - in admiration.

Donald Dill

Just finished reading Alika. Another great read!
Background research led to a great story.
Loved how you got Katie involved.
My three years in the mine business could have used the help of Alika and his buddies in the Red Sea.
Looking forward to Black Lion One!

Karen Dwinell, Director of Animal Welfar

I LOVE ALIKA. What a fabulous story. I laughed and cried. It is a hard-to-put-down read. I loved the tender way you capture the horse, the dolphins and the men who work the ranch, the trainers and their superiors. It is so refreshing to hear a story told without bad language (“f-bomb” OK with me!). What a movie this would make. The only thing I had trouble with was keeping all the Navy abbreviations straight in my head. That is a problem with me….. not the book.

Pat Gagnebin

ALIKA is Excellent. I’d heard about the Navy using dolphins, but I really didn’t know if it was much beyond the experimental stage. Wow! Thanks for the inside scoop on what the program is all about. All that info AND a great story, too. Awesome, Donald!