Ocean’s Gift

Ocean's GiftI usually stay away from romance novels, to be honest, as I imagine a lot of male readers do, but this one has a lot going for the discerning reader, all alleged gender biases aside. For one, it’s one hell of a fantasy, and perhaps the best mermaid story I’ve either ever read or saw a movie of. The story is set off the coast of Australia, along a chain of small islands. Joe, our protagonist, whose perspective half the story is told from, is earthy, a tradesman, skilled in matters of the world, and his very manly take on things gives a male reader an anchor in this story. I also found his adventuresome spirit both fun and a bit reminiscent of the Dirk Pitt character in those Clive Cussler tales I love so; that is to say, where he goes, danger and intrigue follow in closer order. But he has a lot of the same wholesomeness and sheer likability of a good action-adventure hero. He was easy to project myself into, moreover, not being some larger than life figure, but a regular guy just trying to get along in the world.

Stir in the exotic backdrops… I can still taste the saltwater in my mouth, and feel the heat of the Australian sun on my back, and my skin is bronzing as I type this. The seaside community that serves as the context for the story, the bawdy sailors and fishermen, and their crude, sometimes raunchy culture of ill-manners and total lack of refinement worn as a badge of honor, right up there with all their other forms of debasement, is as colorful a backdrop today as it was in Robert Louis Stevenson’s time, and recalls similar picaresque characters from another era. No surprise, little has changed with this group short of the outfits.

The other half of the story, told from the perspective of the mermaids themselves, adds both depth and humor to the tale, as the tribe of mermaids, less seasoned than our heroine in dealing with humans, are tasked with chores that leave them both flummoxed by and cringing at the unappetizing nature of humans on land and what they do to one another. From their vantage point we get a lesson in the clashing of cultures, a theme which is as contemporary as any I can think of. But even more to the point, the B-story in this tale, which is fascinating to follow, tracks the mermaid’s relentless desire to learn more about humans in order to save the planet and save us from ourselves. To their chagrin they find there is little in the popular media regarding the devastation of the oceans, or at least little that is understood about the deep underlying patterns connecting the biosphere’s fragile ecosystems, which the mermaids understand so well. And so the series pushes towards a better coordination of mermaid society and human society, both working towards saving the world in ways that may not be possible without the two factions pulling together. Needless to say by the time we’re through with book one, we’re a long way from any such budding partnership, which I found quite the baited hook in itself for reading on. What’s more, the romance that drives this story between the two leads that we’ve come to so enjoy can only live to see another day in the face of hurdles that for now seem rather insurmountable.

I highly recommend this franchise, and I myself am itching to read book two.