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Literature / Orca: The Killer Whale

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Orca: The Killer Whale is a Novelization of the film of the same name, Orca: The Killer Whale. It was released in the same year as the film in 1977.

This book while following a similar story structure is actually quite a bit of a departure from the film that both can feel like an Alternate Continuity to one another. The main character in the film is a hardened older sea captain whose wife died in a car crash while the main character of this novel is instead a younger disillusioned man whose wife just divorced him.


It is unclear if this version of the story was based on an earlier draft of the script that got radically changed during production, or if instead both this novel and the working script were written concurrently and thus allowed to go off in wildly alternate directions.

Tropes in this version of Orca:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: In the film, the orca kills Nolan. Here Nickfin sets up Campbell on the iceberg to make him think he is about to be eaten alive. However he instead stops and swims away. Some have interpreted this as a sign the whale is legit insane or that this is karma in a "you left me alive after destroying my life, now I leave you alive after destroying yours".
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: Umilak has a direct backstory with Nickfin here and is responsible for the nick in his fin. In the movie Umilak has no in person connection to the whale and Nolan causes the nick during the attempt that killed the female whale.
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  • Adaptation Deviation: As stated above the film and the novel are both rather different.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Annine in the movie played by Bo Derek was a blonde. In this novel she is described multiple times as a redhead.
  • Adaptation Name Change: As mentioned above our main character in this novel is rather different from the film's main character beyond just the name. The orca also gains a name— "Nickfin"— that it did not have in the film.
  • Adaptational Karma: As noted above, the whale lets Campbell live. Whether this a better or worse fate is up for debate.
  • Adaptational Nationality: In the film everyone currently lived in Canada even if the main character was an Irish immigrant. Here the main four who sail on the ship were Americans from Florida who end up in a small Canadian town in Newfoundland.
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  • An Arm and a Leg: Nickfin goes to try to chomp off Annie's leg, but unlike in the movie he doesn't actually pull it off in time. Instead, she has it amputated in hospital due it being so badly injured. Given how orca teeth and jaws function to grip as opposed to crush or tear, this is more plausible than what was seen in the movie.
  • Animal Nemesis: Nickfin the orca and Jack Campbell are sworn enemies from the minute of the accidental killing of his mate and calf. This whale means business and goes directly after making Campbell's life a living hell.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Orca causes a gasoline refinery to incinerate? Yup. Maim and/or kill several people? Yup. Interrupt a pair of sexually-engaged teenagers? You bet!
  • Artistic License – Biology: Well let's just say our main whale here is smarter than what we in real life have studied in real orcas. We can be a kind devil's advocate and admit though if one did exist, chances are good a human might not live to have told anybody.
    • While orcas and other whales are famous for nudging objects they find curious, outright ramming them would still give them lethal concussions. Which again we might want to play devil's advocate that might have made it even more unhinged.
    • And, of course, there's the same Science Marches On factor as in the film: orca males, it turns out, don't stay with their mates or have anything to do with raising or protecting their own offspring. If anything, an orca male would retaliate against someone threatening his mother, because they remain in their mom's pod for life.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: It's a whale hunter and a killer whale. What did you expect?
  • Cassandra Truth: After the two teens witness the Orca's moves to blow up the refinery (he bites the oil pipeline and then knocks into the pilings to make a lantern fall if you were wondering) they got to tell the Mayor and constable who at first suspect that maybe the kids were just drinking and smoking by the oil refinery. Mind you in any other book, "the whale started the fire" would be one heck of a pill to swallow.
  • Crusading Widower: The Orca is a non-human example, wanting revenge for the death of his mate.
  • Death by Adaptation: In this novelization, Annie's boyfriend, Paul, skips town where his character dies in the film.
    • Averted in that in the film the main character Nolan is outright killed by the Orca, Jack Campbell is left alive after making him think he is about to die. Certain theories clearly abound from this.
  • Devious Dolphins: Played straight in both this and the film, but here, we're given keener insight into the orca's motives, all of which take It Can Think Up to Eleven.
    • Heroic Dolphin: The orca would have remained this had Campbell let it be after it saves Rachel and her assistant from a great white shark attack.
  • Driven to Madness: For the possibility the trauma caused Nickfin to go way over his normal line, he would be this trope.
  • Hotter and Sexier: This novel contains some sex scenes not present in the film. One featuring characters we've never even heard of before to pay witness to the whale blowing up the refinery which at first can't help but feel gratuitous (especially given it follows one between the couple the book had been working up to for multiple chapters). Although it does give a Fridge Logic funny moment in the next chapter.
  • It Can Think: The Orca systematically demolishes the town and makes targets of people who have befriended Campbell all in an effort to lead him out to sea for a fight.
  • It's Personal: Played straight with the whale, since Campbell's ship is responsible for the deaths of his mate and child. Campbell eventually takes up this same mantra after Annie loses a leg after one of Nickfin's attacks.
  • "Jaws" Attack Parody: Played with in that the "Jaws" is actually systematically causing terror to the community for a purpose.
  • Moby Schtick: Played with in that the "Moby Dick" is the one out to get revenge first and finally does enough damage to what the whaler loves for him to hunt it down... just as planned.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Campbell suffers this and a not so Heroic BSoD when the female orca miscarries her calf.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In the movie the whale has no real name but here he is known by Umilak and some others as Nickfin.
  • Novelization: This work is one of a film. As stated in this case the film was at least put into production before this book version was conceptualized.
  • Papa Wolf: Both ways actually.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Jack Campbell and Annie are brother and sister here. Nolan and Annie in the film have no such connection.
  • Revenge: Multiple cases
    • The Orca wants revenge on Nolan and co for killing it's mate.
    • Nolan himself wants revenge on the Orca for disfiguring Annie.
    • Umilak is a weird mix of both. He has a history with Nickfin but he seems to want to somehow make peace with the whale so his people can forgive him for bringing his last bit of trouble to South Harbor. It's kind of like redemption and revenge in one.
  • Shout-Out: To Moby-Dick, obviously.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Though not for prey, rather the Orca wants revenge on the people who are responsible for the death of its mate and unborn child. And he's willing to sink ships, eat dogs, cripple sisters, blow up oil refineries and interrupt teenage sex to do it.
  • Take That!: The scene in which the orca kills a great white shark can be seen as one against Jaws.

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