As I get older, I realize more and more just how much I don't know — about so many things. Things that I was so certain of in my arrogant, ignorant youth now seem much less clear to me as I examine them through the (thicker) lenses of...well, let's just say "upper middle age."
One thing I do know for certain, however, is how to recognize quality writing. I think it's something I've gotten better at as I've tried to sharpen my own writing skills. So I can say with great confidence that Hugh Howey is a superb writer. This isn't breaking news. Anyone who has ever read any of his works (and there are many—the man writes and sells a lot of books) knows this to be true. Anyone who hasn't read his work before, and decides to give Howey's work a try, will immediately realize the validity of my claim and see for themselves his colossal talent.
Regardless of genre, Howey seems to genuinely understand how to lay down words in such a way that, when the journey is over, the reader feels as if they've just experienced something a little bit magical. Perhaps they have. To date, I've read three of his books, a post-apocalyptic thriller (Wool), a children's story (Misty, the Proud Cloud) and now this, The Shell Collector. "Shell" is a novel that doesn't quite fit as neatly into one particular category as his other works, but is likely to be considered more of a romance novel than anything else. No matter what category or genre one puts it into, however, Howey knocks "Shell" out of the park with seeming ease. He introduces us to unforgettable characters, living in a vividly portrayed world that is at once familiar, yet very different and weaves a story that even the most cynical of us can relate to (or perhaps especially the most cynical of us).
It begins with a reporter named Maya Walsh, an "everywoman" reporter for the New York Times, whose series of scathing exposés about the richest and most powerful man in the world, Ness Wilde, and his family going back to his great-grandfather. Once printed, these articles will finally bring the villainous clan who literally ruined the world, to justice.
Or at least that's Maya's plan.
That plan is interrupted by a couple of things. First by the FBI, who are after Wilde for reasons of their own, and second, by Ness Wilde himself, a man who has more to lose than Maya could ever dream possible. I won't say much more about the story, for fear of giving too much away, but suffice to say that Maya and Ness spend a significant amount of time together, and learn a lot more about one another, and themselves, than either of them bargained for.
The Shell Collector is a wonderful story that grabs you immediately with warm, real characters and an intriguing storyline. The story is written in first-person, present tense, from Maya's perspective and is very well-paced—meaning it doesn't reveal too much, too quickly, but neither does it drag. Maya relays her story, her worries, fears, suspicions and insecurities in a manner that's both real and revealing, allowing us, the reader, an opportunity to not just simply ride along for the journey, but to experience the emotions for ourselves, and if we so choose, to follow Maya's lead and embark on a little self-examination journey of our own.
The Shell Collector is scheduled to be released on December 14 in both paperback and e-book (Kindle) formats, but is available for pre-order now through Amazon at the link below. I highly recommend any of Mr. Howey's books, The Shell Collector being no exception. Get your copy today!