Book Review: The Shell Collector

It's the last Tuesday of the month and I have a great book review from my best friend, Jen! If you missed her past few book reviews, here's one on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and another on The Girl's Guide to Everything. Today she'll be reviewing another goodie, The Shell Collector. I hope you enjoy!

Hugh Howey is known as for his futuristic and intriguing novels. In The Shell Collector he steps back a bit from some of his more audacious plots and sets the story in the near future. The world of The Shell Collector the seas are dying, tides are rising, and weather is extreme. Shells have become a commodity and this novel focuses on a particular set that could be worth 2-3 million, if they’re not forgeries.

The novel focuses on Maya Walsh, a beautiful and feisty reporter, who is about to publish a four piece expose bringing down Ness Wilde, the leader of a dynasty of oil men who’ve lead to the dying seas. However as the first piece of Maya’s expose is published, Ness reaches out to Maya to do an interview, then the FBI reaches out to Maya to use her as a confidential informant during to help solve a forgery/murder they believe that Ness might be involve in. Maya agrees to these proposals because she wants to bring Ness down. However as the interview progresses, she begins to fall for Ness and realizes there might be more to his story than she thought.

Before this novel was published, I read an excerpt online and was enthralled! Howey writes with such skill that I had to pre-order this book. Maya was given an interesting background and a diverse heritage, Ness’s history was a twist I didn’t expect, and Howey illustrates a plausible reality for the world he creates. The novel opens with: “The trees are a decadence… just to stand there as a giant screw you to reality, a bold claim that seems to say: your world has gone to ruin, but not mine. I can afford to make any world I choose.” I was intrigued the maturity of the story and the writing of the novel.  

When I started reading this book, it was defying the stereotype of futuristic genre where a heroine has the weight of a post-apocalyptic society on her shoulders and has to choose between falling in love and something crucial to the story. However as I read on, Maya began to fall into that stereotype and I began to feel disappointed. That being said, the novel is written so well, that the cliché plot almost feels fresh. Truly, the saving grace in this novel is Howey’s writing style.

One of the most intriguing things about this book is that the environment is as much a character in this novel as Maya is. Often Maya will even personify the Sea, giving it emotions and even comparing humanity’s relationship with the sea an abusive one; saying  “Afterward, I made excuses: I blamed it on the sky, on the weather, on the poor planning. Abusive relationships often go like this: falling in love, not seeing the ugly side, coming up with rationalization when you do. It hard to get free, because you just want to recapture some lost feeling.”

Despite my complaints, I would still recommend this book. The characters are amazing, the world Howey creates is fascinating, and three weeks after reading the novel I am still thinking about it. Knowing myself, I am sure this book will warrant a re-read.


  1. I usually don't care for anything that falls in the fantasy or science fiction realm but this sounds really interesting-- adding it to my to-read list for something different :)


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