The novel's premise is reminiscent of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, but the author adds a World War II back story and a contemporary setting to make it a generic, improbable thriller.
Robinson (Ragnarok, 2012, etc.) gives us the scientific vessel Magellan, on a mission to explore the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of trash in the Pacific, and study its environmental impact on sea life. We meet Mark Hawkins, former park ranger, unofficially adopted son of a Ute, Howie GoodTracks, who taught him tracking, ecology and platitudes about predation. Mark, aka Ranger, saves crew member Dr. Avril Joliet, holder of two Ph.D.s in biology and oceanography, from a shark while she is trying to salvage a sea turtle with strange injuries. Joliet is beautiful and impulsive, good both at heart and with a scalpel. Of course, Hawkins has fallen for her. Hawkins’ roommate is Bob Bray, a paunchy high school science teacher on sabbatical, with useful knowledge about the tortured history of the denizens of the island of the title. Capt. Drake, his engineers, cooks and interns are all introduced just in time: A storm is brewing, and the ship’s systems are on the fritz. When they wake up, the ship is in a lagoon, and members of the crew are missing. Hawkins, Bray and Joliet go ashore to search. When they find signs of past occupation, the story shifts from the improbable to the preposterous. It is not long before we get vivisection, genetic engineering, Black Ops, animal husbandry and mayhem.
This is the stuff that comic books, video games and successful genre franchises are made of.