This is a story about what are, in effect, mermaids and mermen. However, it is not fantasy - at least not fairy-tale fantasy, though perhaps you might class it as that SF sub-genre Speculative Fantasy, rather than as hardcore Science Fiction.
In one sense, it is a little of both - as I suppose are all the best SF novels.
In a not-too-distant future, when over-fishing has depleted the seas of wild fish, shoals of millions of farmed tuna are minded out in the open ocean by genetically engineered humans and tame dolphins. Like shepherds and their sheepdogs, the humans directing operations and the dolphins keeping the shoal all together and moving in the right direction. As a situation this clearly has its good side, but one of its downsides is that traditional fishermen, who had been barely making a living before, are now unable to compete. Some turn to piracy, or to drug-trafficking, working for the big cartels. Others, like our hero Toivo, struggle on as fishermen.
Toivo, it should be pointed out, is not a shepherd. What enables him to keep going is his ability to communicate directly with dolphins. He literally "speaks dolphinese", which he learnt as a small child spending all his time with dolphins that his father, a marine zoologist, was studying. Now his dolphin friends help him with his fishing.
So there he is on his fishing-boat somewhere out in the south Pacific. And not far away on a submersible raft, their home, live three shepherds. Two of them are a couple; the third, Olga, whom some would descrinbe as beautiful, others as a freak, feels left out. Lonely. And that she has nothing whatsoever to look forward to. She cannot live on land, and now her kind, mutants, the product of genetic engineering, have been declared illegal by the UN.
On a third vessel, a large ship, a fishing-boat skipper turned drug-runner who hates "swimmer freaks" sails towards them. Enough. I don't wish to spoil it.
I love the whole notion of mermaids and sea-people so naturally I thrilled to this story. But there is something else that makes this book stand out from the rest. The dolphins are not only intelligent but philosphically and spiritually more advanced than most of us humans - partly, of course, because they are completely unmaterialistic. There is even the suggestion that their ancestors, millions of years ago, were land-dwellers and the first civilisation on Earth, but then took the conscious decision to return to the sea. Toivo's close friend, the dolphin Poika, believes that humans have at last begun to tire of their materialistic and self-destructive civilisation and are now ready to return to the sea. That people like Olga represent the future of our species.
Don't miss this if you enjoy thrillers with an unusual setting and some passages which make you think. And go on thinking after you have closed the book.
Olga is a genetically altered “shepherd” born to live at sea herding factory tuna. She lives with her two shipmates aboard a submersible raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Toivo is an independent fisherman who, along with two dolphins, struggles to make a living catching what few wild tuna are left. The two of them should never have met. But, someone is killing shepherds and fate pushes Olga and Toivo to join forces just to stay alive. Together they must outwit heavily armed drug smugglers bent on killing anyone who gets in their way. The nonstop action hurtles toward a startling conclusion that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
About the Author
Since his early years, J. Drew Brumbaugh has been pursuing two of his life's passions, writing and martial arts. His published pieces include both fiction and non-fiction articles including short stories and two novels. A native Ohioan, Mr. Brumbaugh was born in Athens, Ohio. During his early childhood his family moved to northeast Ohio. As a young man, Mr. Brumbaugh spent time crewing on a Great Lakes iron ore boat, earning money to attend college. After graduation from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps. Following military service, he entered private industry and is now the Director of Quality for a local corporation. In his spare time Mr. Brumbaugh continues to write, concentrating on novels and is head instructor at the karate dojo that he, along with his wife and business partner, Carolyn Berg, own and operate. Currently Mr. Brumbaugh and Ms. Berg share their Mentor, Ohio home with an ever-changing flow of family, friends, students, goldfish and their dog, Blue.