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.