A Whale of a Story | Speculative Fiction and Nonfiction About Whales

From a nonfiction work about the gentle giants gliding through the deep and vast seas, to a speculative-fiction book imagining getting swallowed alive by one of these goliaths, LJ’s May issue offers readers of many interests a whale of a story.

From a nonfiction work about the gentle giants gliding through the deep and vast seas to a speculative fiction book, imagining getting swallowed alive by one of these goliaths, LJ's May issue offers readers of many interests a whale of a story.

Kraus, Daniel. Whalefall. MTV Bks. Aug. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9781665918169. $27.99. SF

Kraus, coauthor of The Shape of Water with Guillermo del Toro, presents a nerve-wracking tale of survival in Monterey, CA. Jay is a young scuba diver who has a contentious history with his father, a local legend and maritime master. Feeling crushed under the weight of expectation and disappointment, Jay performs one last dive to prove himself. When he’s swallowed by a sperm whale, with only one hour before his scuba tanks runs out of oxygen, he’ll have to draw upon everything he’s ever learned from his father and the ocean to get free. The novel conveys a great respect for nature, especially for whales and the ethereal beauty and ferocious dangers of the ocean. The scientific and biological accuracy enhances the disturbing realism of what it would actually be like to be swallowed by a whale. Jay’s plight is viscerally intense and claustrophobic, even as he grapples with real and raw emotions that stem from remorse and a need for reconciliation. VERDICT This hard sci-fi thriller is full of cinematic and wild suspense and would be great for fans of Andy Weir, although the tone is far more austere.—Andrea Dyba

Rosenwaks, Gaelin. Sperm Whales: The Gentle Goliaths of the Ocean. Rizzoli. Nov. 2022. 224p. ISBN 9780847872329. $50. REF

Marine scientist Rosenwaks (founder, Global Ocean Exploration) has marveled at sperm whales since an encounter in early childhood. As a filmmaker and researcher, she revisited a resident population of sperm whales that live near the island of Dominica in the Eastern Caribbean. Thoughtful photographs of whales and calves, with occasional explanatory text, bring the reader into the ocean to silently observe these mammals, which have the largest brains of any whale and live for decades in matriarchal groups. VERDICT Rosenwaks’s love and respect for whales are evident on every page, as she documents solo whales and family groups as they swim, nurse, and play.—Maggie Knapp

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