Breakthrough (Breakthrough #1), by Michael C. Grumley

Eight stars

Working off a strong recommendation by a dear friend, I chose to venture into the world of Michael C. Grumley and this series. Having sped through the prequel short story, I was intrigued to see how it would all come together. It’s hard to slot this book into a specific genre, as it is part science fiction, part action, and even part biological. However one might label it, Grumley did well in its delivery and has me wanting to know a little more. Alison Shaw has been working at an aquarium for the past five years, focussing on two dolphins. Slowly, but surely, a scientific breakthrough is made that could change the way humans see the dolphin world, but it is still too soon to reveal it all. Meanwhile, a nuclear submarine goes missing and the US Government is keen to learn more. Might the technology that Shaw and her team possess be essential to finding the sub and learning what happened? Grumley certainly piques the interest of the attentive reader with this first novel in a jam-packed series.

Deep in the ocean, a US submarine goes well off course and no one aboard can tell what’s happened. It’s panic all over the place and there is nothing that can be done. Radar shows the anomaly and yet no one can properly explain the phenomena. It is only later, when two Navy Seals find an odd ring on the ocean floor that possible theories begin to emerge.

Alison Shaw has been working at a Miami aquarium for the past five years, hoping to make something of herself. Her work with two dolphins looks promising, so much so that the latest project has her highly excited about what is to come. By recording and synthesising much of the communicative speech patterns, Shaw and her team have been able to effectively engage in two-way dialogue with the dolphins. Through a high-tech computer, basic interaction between humans and dolphins seems possible, which will surely create a stir in the scientific community, as well as with the general public.

When members of the US Government learn of the dolphins’ abilities, they come knocking, if only to tap into this new resource. Using the dolphins to probe what might be taking place deep on the ocean floor could have a numerous benefits, particularly as there is now a means by which communication is possible. However, Shaw and her team are not ready to rent out the dolphins to the highest bidder, making them more of a circus act than they appear to be to attendees of the aquarium.

On the other side of the world, a massive ice quake rocks Antarctica. A number of scientists are killed and early detection explores the possibility of a major tsunami that could rock both sides of the Atlantic, should something not be done. Early signs point to a phenomena that is not quite understood, though it might all relate to that ring on the bottom of the ocean. Who is behind the ring and what will it mean for those in military and political power? Is there a new enemy emerging, one the Americans have yet to fully respect? Grumley poses this and many other questions in this thriller that pulls on many interesting threads while keeping the reader engaged throughout.

I am the first to admit that science fiction is not usually my cup of tea, but this piece had something that pulled me in from the get-go. It might have been the realism that Michael C. Grumley presents, or even that there was a grounded science and even loose political aspect to the piece, but I am happy to have accepted the recommendation to read this book and want to know more. Grumley pushes reality up against the supernatural and presses a case for what might be out there and how current technology may be on the cusp of greatness, which boggles the mind and makes it all the more exciting.

Alison Shaw serves as the likely protagonist in this piece, pulling on much of her work to guide the book’s plot. While she has been snubbed by the US Navy before, stymying her research, she tries to keep an open mind when it comes to using this linguistic technology. She is adamant that her dolphins are not playthings for use by the highest bidder, but she is also keen to help where she can. Her drive for success can be seen throughout the piece, never overshadowed by stardom. It is a push for the truth over all else that keeps her in the middle of the story and I am eager to see what comes of her character in subsequent novels.

Grumley certainly develops a strong supporting cast in this piece to keep the reader on their toes throughout. There is so much going on throughout the various subplots that the reader is forced to entertain many names and characters whose roles play a vital part of the overall story. Grumley does well to differentiate them one from the other and never loses the momentum needed to keep everyone of interest to the reader. There are hints that some may appear throughout the series while others are surely one-offs, used to propel the plot forward.

The story was great and kept my attention throughout. While I am not fully engaged with writing that pushes things too far out of the realm of reality, I allowed myself a little reprieve in order to entertain what Grumley wanted to pass along to his readers. There is much to learn from the story and the themes emerge throughout. A strong narrative guides the story along, layered with strong characters and realistic dialogue. Grumley uses a variety of chapter lengths to keep the reader engaged, filling them with knowledge at some points and rushing them from point to point on other occasions as well. I am intrigued with where things are headed and can only hope that Grumley has something equally as exciting to come in the next novel, for which I am reaching as I finalise this review.

Kudos, Mr. Grumley, for this intriguing perspective that gets the story going. I have many questions that I hope begin to receive answers as I push forward.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: