FeaturedLiterary Fiction

Beyond the Human Realm: A Novel


Loved it! 😍

You don't have to be environmentally conscious to appreciate this novel, which like any great work of fiction can change your worldview.

Although there are many quotes from existing, real-life, scientific publications, fittingly dispersed at the beginning of certain chapters, this is clearly, deliberately, a work of fiction. An engaging, fascinating, exhilarating, deeply moving, always unexpected and thrillingly unpredictable work of fiction that aptly mixes and matches literary genres (action, adventure, folklore, romance, thriller) to tell its story of redemption, while shrewdly reflecting the current state of crisis our planet is in.


Occupying a narrative space somewhere between Frank Shaentzing's The Swarm and Laline Paull's The Bees, it succeeds equally as a surprisingly entertaining mode of escapism and a wake-up call, drawing attention to very real, urgent matters. Less global than The Swarm but more expansive than The Bees it differentiates from both as it unfolds from distinctly different perspectives, human as well as animal, allowing all its main, familiarly grey, biped, and cetacean heroes to evolve - to become better.


Usual tropes, such as the anthropomorphising of the whales, the romanticising of the Native American or First Nation peoples, and the "white-man-saviour" syndrome are not completely avoided. But they are wittingly, carefully employed as narrative tools to an acceptable, effective degree to make us readily care more deeply for each one of the main characters. Indeed, the affection I felt for the whales at times flooded me, catching me completely unawares. Even the distinctively, exclusively human feeling/instinct (no spoilers!) attributed to Makai and some others in his immediate family towards the end makes sense as it offers a subtle way to pose a pertinent, significant question: What if nature "decided" to, deliberately, fight back?


It is a question that becomes louder and more obvious as this story nears its brilliant, open-ended, full of hope and possibilities finale. But it is there, discreetly swimming under the surface, from the very beginning. And it is one of the author's, Gene Helfman's ways of making us see through the eyes of the - human, or not - Other, in this extremely well-crafted and enjoyable book that is anything but patronising or emotionally blackmailing, and which is almost impossible to put down.


P.S. Although this is clearly, deliberately, a work of fiction, some real-life facts, truths and admissions are fittingly dispersed in the extensive Acknowledgements section. Illuminating, important facts, truths and admissions, which can further decipher our emotions into clarity and change our mindset, allowing us to evolve - to become better.


Reviewed by

I watch, I read, I write. Not necessarily in that order. I am a motion pictures fanatic, an avid book reader, an unabashed amateur photographer, an ever curious globe-trotter, an occasionally addicted video-gamer, a (pop) culture aficionado and socially conscious political animal.

About the author

Gene Helfman, PhD, is an animal behaviorist turned conservation biologist. He has authored four books on fish and marine conservation. His fiction writing includes a sharksploitation horror/comedy screenplay on shark finning. Gene and his wife Dr. Judy Meyer live on Lopez Island in Washington State. view profile

Published on July 12, 2021

110000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Literary Fiction

Reviewed by