The ocean is dying. The sea is growing warmer and is gradually rising. Seashells have become so rare that collecting them is now a national obsession. Flawless specimens sell like priceless works of art. Families hunt the tideline in the dark of night with flashlights. Crowds gather on beaches at the lowest of tides, hoping to get lucky.
Supreme among these collectors is Ness Wilde, CEO of Ocean Oil. Ness owns many of the best beaches, and he keeps them to himself. It’s his fault the world turned out this way. And I aim to destroy him.
My name is Maya Walsh. You might be familiar with my shelling column in the Times. I was working on a series of pieces about Mr. Wilde, when out of the blue, he called. He says he wants to talk. But I don’t think he’s going to like what I have to say.
Review 4 of 5 Stars
With regard to the writing, this may be one of my favorite Hugh Howey books yet. The writing flowed effortlessly across the page. Having said that this may be my favorite Hugh Howey book yet based on the writing, you may wonder why I’m only giving it four stars. That really comes down to things that were left up in the air, like the FBI interest in Mr. Ness. I’m still not sure what happened with all of that, but the writing was fantastic. I enjoyed the story and laughed at the sometimes awkward romantic circumstances that Mr. Howey put them into, but overall it was a good read. I really enjoyed the environmental part of the story so to speak and all of the interesting information about the different kinds of shells. I’ve been collecting shells all of my life (amateur only) and never imagined that I could become so interested in what had once inhabited those shells.
If you are a Wool or Sand fan this may not be your bailiwick, but if you are willing to read something outside of your comfort zone then you may find this to be a story that warms your heart as it did mine. There were a lot of things about this story that interested me. I like that the author wrote so much closer to home this time. Wool and Sand are both set far enough in the future that it takes a while to realize they aren’t based somewhere else. Although this story is set in the future, the surroundings in this story were more familiar and easier to overlook. I live in Florida and spend a lot of time at the beach and other such assorted things that made the story feel more contemporary.
This story did suffer from some of the normal pitfalls of romances. A romance is a formula of sorts: boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy either gets girl back or girl finds much more interesting person out of nowhere and ends up madly in love either way. Romances are kind of naturally unrealistic. That’s why I think they are so popular. A romance is a chance to practice escapism. Even though most of us know that life doesn’t generally work like it does in romance novels, there are those rare occasions and sometimes it is nice to daydream about it happening to us. I read science fiction for the same reason, daydreaming. I’m not likely to be sent to space on a ship tomorrow, but I’ve been daydreaming about it since I was a little girl. Very likely, the only way I’ll ever get to space is through a book. Romances are just a different kind of escapism and I think the author did a good job with it.
There are many of Mr. Howey’s fans who may not appreciate The Shell Collector or who do not support authors writing outside of their usual genre. I’m sorry for them. This was a beautiful story and it left me with a good feeling at the end. Once again, maybe not for those readers that only enjoy science fiction, but if you’d like a little daydreaming it may be just fine.