The Shell Collector

  • by Hugh Howey
  • Narrated by Samara Naeymi
  • 8 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Put your ear up to it and you can hear the ocean..

Once upon a time there was a little girl that loved to spend time with her father combing pristine beaches looking for sea shells. [Their mother had died.] Together they would travel and explore new beaches, rising with the out-going tide each morning to sweep the smooth fresh sands of the intertidal zones looking for their little calcium carbonate exoskeleton treasures. Her name was Mayarella, and as she grew, she waxed strong in beauty and the knowledge of conchology and became a famous journalist who wrote a column for the NY Times all about seashells, and people around the world loved it.

It so happened that while Maya spent her childhood days combing beaches, there was a horrible and greedy man that was recklessly pumping out the pools of oil that had collected beneath the ocean floor. He had a little boy he named after a monster that lived in Scotland. Ness spent time at the ocean with his father also, looking for shells. His father didn't care about the oceans or shells, he only cared about money. He drilled and got richer than anyone in the whole world while the water got really polluted, then started getting warmer until all the animals and plants died, even the coral reefs. Next thing you know, New Yorkers were wearing galoshes like Venetians, sea shells disappeared with all living creatures in the sea. The evil man and his wife eventually died, leaving everything to Ness -- by then a young man.

Ness has become reclusive, living in a compound surrounded by the only clean ocean left. Maya is about to publish a series of scathing articles about this evil shell-destroying family when she is summoned to appear before the FBI. A mush-mouthed FBI man dangles before her pretty eyes a perfect Lace Murex, a rare mollusk shell that sells now for millions of dollars. There is a dead body involved, a physicist that worked for Ness and owned the shells, but that's not the problem. FBI man Cooper thinks Ness is manufacturing fake shells, making millions of dollars selling them (and the IRS hasn't seen a penny from those sales, Maya knows from history that tax evasion is how the FBI gets their really big criminals. This goes against all of her shell collecting principles.) These shells have been extinct for 30 yrs., but these look new. "So, that famous shell collector Ness Wild is nothing more than a phony," she spits, and agrees to help the FBI take down the monster.

The ridiculously long driveway to Ness' house crunches under Maya's tires and she realizes this isn't cement, Ness has crushed shells....gazillions of crustacean corpses, crushed shells, volutes, cones, cowries, and rock shells lining miles! She is appalled and ready to give this monster a piece of her mind. She pounds on the front door and standing there is a beautiful golden man with sun bleached hair. His body is tan and toned; he is bare footed, wearing white drawstring pants that billow around his muscular thighs. A large black pearl threaded through a leather thong hangs on his chiseled chest, and birds sing in the back ground, "I'm Ness."

He's beautiful. His sea-green eyes twinkle, belying his evil nature, "Be my guest! Be my guest, put my vintage wine to the test!" he pours her wine and gives her crackers and cheese and charcuterie. She remembers she is a serious journalist, and on a mission from the FBI. She sips her wine suspiciously and judiciously. Her body tingles with each sip; Maya has never tasted anything so lovely. What a cad he is, she bats her eyes. Her head reels and she imagines a hallway lined with the photos of hundreds of female journalists Ness has slept with; she is determined not to fall for this smooth performance -- not to be part of his world. He is trying to tell her something he has never told anyone before--the *truth,* a real scoop, something about his *sniff* beloved misunderstood grandfather *tears in his eyes*. What a shameful act! She finishes her wine and she stands to go. Maya is a little, "what's that word...Tipsy!" And wouldn't ya know it, her car... it won't go, it won't go, Turn away and slam the door, back into Ness' house. He makes her the best coffee ever and tells her all about the rare Hakuna matata beans. Surely a man that makes his own coffee...

Maya knows her life is in danger; she is on guard as she spends the night in his fabulous guest house. When she awakes, the fridge is stocked, and there is a surprise! Ness has a little girl (about the same age as the one Maya lost when she was once married). The little girl is spunky and cute, and takes right to Maya. They form the *I hate rain* club and cook eggs-in-a-hole, and fall asleep...Ness sneaks in after his meeting, and finds them cuddled together, and tears up.
Eventually (that week) Maya blows off the FBI, discards the wires, tells her boss she quits, goes in a deep sea diving bell to the bottom of the ocean, makes out with Ness, and has several other adventures around the world before she discovers, by Friday, that she and Ness are soul mates. They knew it the minute they saw each other. Little daughter knew it too; all she's ever wanted is for her daddy to be happy. Together, the three save the oceans; new kids again find the joys of collecting shells...and they live happily ever after.

Wonderful, wonderful, and the girl telling the story does a lovely job in spite of sometimes using her boy voice when it's time for her girl voice (and the mush-mouthed FBI Cooper).

My complaints: So many missed opportunities; choreographed little sea creatures frolicking around the kissing couple would have added some magic to the romance; a colony of sick oil drenched otters hiding out on Ness' property secretly aided by the little daughter would have given emotional depth and dimension; a full-on Mer-people attack against humankind was definitely needed for the drama element, a resentful lone-surviving giant squid could have attacked the diving bell, the FBI would have logically launched a door to door hunt for Mayarella, testing each young lady resident to see if the wire fit -- come on, Howey! (And, I know this is a little out there, but...wouldn't an appearance by the real Loch Ness monster at a wedding have been just the ultimate?!) If an author is going to turn an environmental issue into a fairytale romance, there absolutely HAS to be an Olaf and/or Sven, at least a Gus Gus, a Jiminy Cricket, or perfectly suited for this sea-theme, a Sebastian the Crab(!). I take off stars for such oversights.
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- Mel

Why Howey, why?!!!

I don't like to give a bad review! I only want to give good review! But I'm on a bad string of listens and I have to vent. Or at least prevent someone else from wasting a credit.

I am a big fan of Hugh Howey but this doesn't feel like Howey at all. This is more of a romance novel than science fiction. I kept waiting for interesting things to happen but alas, I was left with that icky feeling you feel when you suspect a cheesy love scene is about to happen and you really don't want to fast forward because you feel like you are cheating yourself and disrespecting the story but you have no choice... its just too cheesy to bare.

The funny thing is, I had just tried listening to 50 Shades of Grey on a lark, but could only get 10 or 15 minutes in, and then immediately after I started Shell Collector and eerily found some parallels between the two stories. Both stories begin with a sassy lady giving an interview to a rich and famous playboy, with said sassy lady trying very hard to dislike the playboy but eventually being won over and seduced. It was a surreal experience to listen to these stories back to back. I kept thinking, wait a minute, this is Hugh Howey, right?!

OK, back to being serious. In the future the world's oceans are extremely polluted and sea life has been destroyed. Therefore sea shells are very rare and a culture of shell collectors has sprung up, grown, and become part of mainstream society. Our leading lady is a reporter with an attachment to shells that goes back to her childhood days of collecting with her mom and dad. The leading man is a billionaire in the oil business whose family contributed to the very pollution that destroyed the oceans and consequently created the shell economy. He also happens to be the most famous shell collector in the world. More than anything else the story is about the intersection of these two characters. There was only one love scene, which I had to skip.

I already feel guilty for dissing Howey. I still love you. Please keep writing stories like Wool and Halfway Home.

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- Michale "Looking for complex, believable characters, an engaging storyline, and good narration! Fan of sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, and horror."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-27-2015
  • Publisher: Broad Reach Publishing