I picked up this novel from the library because it looked interesting. It has a neat cover, and the prospect of reading about a science-based reality show going horribly wrong was just too much to resist!
The novel focuses on an isolated island in the South Pacific Ocean. It has an interesting prologue set in 1791 when a British ship first comes across this island in the middle of nowhere. Men are sent onto the island to gather water, and are quickly killed by what are described by survivors as ‘demons’. This prompts the captain to name to name the island after himself(Henders Island) and mark it as having nothing on it.
Fast forward to present day.
A science based reality show responds to a distress signal on the island, rediscovering it and the danger it poses. The story itself focuses on Nell Duckworth and Andrew Beaseley. Both are scientists and are keen to learn more about the species of this island after the initial disastrous and deadly encounter.
The life on the island is described as being very alien, essentially sharing a common ancestor with Mantis Shrimp. Fahy does a great job describing the science, and I thought he captured how scientists do their job in a manner that isn’t as sensationalist as is often seen in entertainment these days. It made for a more believable science aspect of the story, and grounded everything else in the logic of evolutionary science.
I enjoyed the characters as well, and liked that a romantic relationship between characters wasn’t used as a driver for the plot. There was plenty enough in terms of scientific discovery for that. There wasn’t a huge amount of development, but given it takes place over a few days the story focuses more on the impact of what might happen if the aggressive and alien species of Hender’s Island were to escape to the human world.
The story builds very well, and the focus on the danger to the human eco-system, as well as the ethics of encountering new species and how to deal with them are very well handled. While it starts slow, once they begin to study the creatures of the island in earnest it picks up and becomes a really immersive read.
If you like more science-based sci-fi, this book is well worth your time to read!