Book Review – The Shell Collector


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A few weeks ago, I was given the special opportunity to read Hugh Howey’s latest novel, The Shell Collector. Of course, I jumped at the chance, not really knowing when I’d have time to read it. Of course, like Howey’s other works, once I started, I really couldn’t put it down, blazing right through it even though Howey was busy immersing himself in a different genre, yet again. 

I already posted my review on Amazon last week, but suffice it to say I loved exploring a world built by Mr. Howey once again. It was a delightful read, told by a familiar voice, but with a different tilt. Here is the full review: 

Another Hugh Howey book. Another vision of the future.

This time out, however, the future isn’t so bleak and isn’t a terrifying place to be. In fact, in The Shell Collector, the world he’s created has been decimated by rising sea levels, but the story is bright and hopeful, a stark contrast to the previous trips to the future we’ve taken with him.

I really enjoyed The Shell Collector as a speculative fiction romance, featuring Maya Walsh as the intrepid reporter, trying to unearth the truth about Ness Wilde, the CEO of Ocean Oil. Wilde and his family are pariahs because of the earth’s condition; sea levels rose in no small part to the ways the Wildes have abused the earth’s resources over the years. But, as she gets to know Ness, she discovers that the story she is planning does not accurately paint him or his family. That there is far more behind the man.

Throughout it all is a search for elusive shells, which have become collector’s items and currency in this futuristic society when shells have all become rare due to the ocean conditions.

This book is vastly different than anything I’ve seen from Howey before, but there are themes that he has certainly tapped into again. A prominent one is going beneath the surface of the earth. In WOOL, the deeper the characters went, the more the sparks of rebellion grew. In Sand, the deeper the divers went, the more death and despair crept in. In both, claustrophobia was present, but the way out was usually through death.

In The Shell Collector, Howey again takes our characters deep—this time to the ocean’s floor to see the creation of new life in the volcanic hearth in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Claustrophobia is present, but this time, our characters experience hope and healing. The shells that each of them are for different reasons, are given new life in a submarine at the bottom of the world, and they discover each other in the process. Unlike in WOOL or Sand, where the depths of the earth usually lead to death, Howey utilizes the intense pressure to create love and affection between our protagonists.

Science fiction plays a role in this book, to be sure, but it is a light one. Howey has created a romance novel and a good one at that. The plot was consistently pushed along by twists and turns, but wasn’t bogged down by unnecessary points where Howey could have devolved the story to erotica levels. Howey once again shows he knows how to write, no matter the genre or convention. Well done!

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