A riveting, thought-provoking story disguised as a fast-paced thriller.


A debut novel spins a tale about studying killer whales to find hope for the future.

Tech billionaire David James Parker is close to introducing a cutting-edge artificial intelligence named Soti. But his estranged father, James, dies, sending DJ off on a new path. DJ’s younger brother, Jonathan Joseph, is an autistic savant so James named DJ as the executor of his estate. James was wealthy, made rich by his OneWorld Marine Park franchise. In a video, James explains to DJ that what he really wants him to do is to continue the research he had begun into how orcas (killer whales) communicate. With the aid of Soti and the sensitive JJ, DJ’s research determines that the orcas use telepathic resonance (linked by thoughts over long distances). DJ believes he can transfer this form of communication to humans and plans to offer it free to everyone. But officials of the Kremlin-connected Neftkomp company, which is seeking to buy OneWorld, steal one version of Soti, hoping to figure out how to use telepathic resonance so that Russia can regain global superiority. Attempts to squelch the Russian scheme result in a rising body count. Meanwhile, the orcas resist DJ’s plan to give their secret to humans and leave him to wrestle with whether he is trying to open a Pandora’s box. Swanson is a marine naturalist who has long studied the Washington state-based orcas known as the Southern Resident Killer Whales, which are featured in his novel. He even includes the thoughts of the orcas, as translated by JJ or Soti. The author deserves credit for having good guys and bad guys among both the Americans and Russians rather than heavy-handedly favoring one side. His protagonist is thorough and conscientious, and he’s surrounded by a Greek chorus of associates who force DJ to consider every angle of his potentially world-changing decision. This clever thriller is effectively paced, as both sides race to crack the orcas’ code, one working for humanity and the other striving for domination. Swanson leaves readers debating whether DJ makes the right call in the end.

A riveting, thought-provoking story disguised as a fast-paced thriller.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73270-250-9

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Pendrell Sound Press

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

Did you like this book?