Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Ned Beauman

Pub Date: July 5th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-64129-412-6
Publisher: Soho

Won’t you please open your heart and save the venomous lumpsucker?

Beauman’s quirky techno-thriller unfolds in a bleakly believable near future ravaged by climate change and dominated by an unholy alliance between corporate capitalism and ecological protocols. Our protagonists—Mark Halyard, a morally slippery mining company functionary, and Karin Resaint, a zealous evaluator of animal intelligence—join forces to protect the last vestiges of a parasitic fish species (the titular venomous lumpsucker) for diametrically opposed reasons as they navigate various nature preserves and hermetic think tanks powered by miraculous technologies run amok. Beauman is a deft plotter, and his characters are well drawn, with Halyard’s panicked self-interest and Resaint’s icy resolve striking comedic sparks as the pair desperately endeavor to preserve an unlovable marine species that, by most metrics, would not be missed if lost to extinction. The book’s real strength is its ability to evocatively raise profound questions about humanity’s relationship with and responsibility to animals and the larger environment in the course of its often (darkly) comic action. The worldbuilding is dazzling: Abandoned machine marvels called spindrifters randomly roam the ocean, causing freak storms; a research facility prized for its freedom from sovereign restraints becomes horrifically infested with insects; an oasislike reserve reveals itself to be overrun with toxic waste; and a government minister becomes a Bond-like fugitive assassin with the aid of a superpowered scuba suit, all under the watchful eye of a monstrous international environmental regulatory body that grants cooperative corporations “extinction credits” like popes of old dispensing Indulgences. It’s funny—and chilling and terribly sad—because it’s true.

A dire warning, sick joke, and perceptive critique of a species of very questionable intelligence: humanity.