The Shell Collector
By: Hugh Howey
# of pages: 282
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.
My opinion: This is my second Hugh Howey book to read this month. Last week I reviewed Beacon 23, which I loved. I’ve also read the Wool series and Dust. However, I just discovered that Howey grew up in the town right next to mine. When I read the author’s note (while I’m thinking of it, there’s more to the story after the note so make sure to keep reading) for The Shell Collector he mentioned visiting Figure Eight Island in NC when he was a kid, which is the island my husband went to every summer as a child and that I’ve visited several times myself after my husband and I started dating. I got excited and we looked him up and found out he’s from just down the road. Pretty cool!
All of that said, I didn’t enjoy The Shell Collector as much as the others I’ve read, but it was still a very interesting concept for a story and a good read. The story is about Maya, a reporter in a future where the sea levels have drastically risen due to environmental pollution. Maya has spent years writing a story about the Wilde family, who for generations have controlled the oil drilling industry. The Wildes have grown rich by polluting the planet and causing the temperature of the oceans to rise, which has killed off many species as well as causing flooding throughout the world. Maya’s family collected shells to sell when she was a kid because the animals who live in the shells were going extinct and prices for the shells rose. Maya still loves shelling, a passion shared by Ness Wilde, the current owner of the company he inherited from his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
When Maya has the opportunity to personally interview Ness, she jumps at the chance to confront the man she blames for the destruction of all the oceans. When she meets Ness face to face, she’s surprised by his seeming to be genuine. But Maya knows he’s hiding something and she’s determined to find out what. Her determination leads her on a journey of a lifetime where nothing goes the way she expects.
My main issues with the book are Maya’s all-about-me attitude and the fact that not much really happens in spite of all the adventures. The future world and society are fascinating and I wish we could have learned more of the science behind it all. Also, I would have liked to have learned more about Ness’s thoughts and experiences instead of just Maya’s.
Overall, it’s a book worth reading, but nothing super amazing. I’d also not recommend it as the first book of Howey’s to try.
Why I gave this book 4/5 stars: Cool story concept and world building, but the main character was kind of annoying and the story didn’t go as in depth as I would have liked.