Reviews for Echoes in the Blue

Literary Reviews

New Zealand Herald
Reviewed by Philippa Jamieson

Eco-thriller is a genre I hadn't encountered. The cover says a “donation from every book sold goes to save the whales.” While I'm anti-whaling, like most New Zealanders, I wondered how preachy the book would be and whether this might be off-putting.
I needn't have worried. Echoes in the Blue is a tense and compelling read, and I carried the 470-page book with me to read at every opportunity.
The unlikely protagonist is Richard Major, a timid electronics engineer from Auckland, and self-confessed “useless, bumbling idiot.” Our hapless hero is in a funk after his marriage break-up, and allows himself to be persuaded into helping his intrepid and indomitable marine biologist brother Cal on a voyage to collect scientific data on whales in the Pacific.
From the get-go the author plunges into heady action, with the knowledgeable Cal spouting facts about whales and whaling to his naive and ignorant brother as they are speeding on an inflatable to get between some Japanese harpoonists and a rare blue whale.
The scientific project is abandoned for an all-out whale-saving mission using direct action on the high seas. What follows is the slaughter of a protected species, harassment, assault, sabotage and murder, back-room deals and vote-buying at an International Whaling Commission meeting, a powerful Japanese whaling magnate and Fisheries Minister, agents from the US Department of Homeland Security, and an Antarctic showdown between the forces of good and evil.
C. George Muller can certainly tell a good story, and kept me up past bedtime a few nights, with my heart racing. His style is popular, sometimes cliched, but with enough freshness and momentum that the reader can handle the ecological declamations and the massive amount of information being imparted. Occasionally, I had to suspend belief, but the need to know what would happen overrode most niggles. The characters are exaggerated but likeable, and represent all the different points of view on the spectrum, including the greedy and power-hungry fisheries’ boss, the non-violent Greenpeace activist and the old sea dog who’s a former US Navy maverick. The points of view have a decidedly male bias.
In an uncanny real-life parallel, while I was reading, news bulletins kept updating progress on the disabled, fire-damaged Japanese “factory ship” (read: floating whale slaughterhouse) in Antarctic waters. It highlighted the book’s themes of the ongoing international conflict over these noble and endangered creatures, and the clash between greed and conservation.

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Dominion Post Indulgence
Reviewed by Siobhan Harvey

New Zealand author C. George Muller’s Echoes in the Blue (Koru, pb $38.95) is a gripping whodunit set in the world of international whaling. When not commanding his ship, Gwendolyn, around Antarctic waters, Richard Major is campaigning against commercial whaling at International Whaling Commission meetings. Along the way, there are run-ins with Japanese fleet master Hogei Gyofuku of the Kuu-Maru No 1, corrupt IWC commissioner Amimoto and a mysterious, one-fingered Yakuza hitman. Major’s brother's murder leads him to hunt down the killer. A spirited eco-thriller.

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Science and Professional Reviews

Scientific Advisor to NZ International Whaling Commission (IWC) Commissioner

A really good read with an excellent exploration of the issues surrounding whales, whaling and the IWC. Very well researched and full of interesting facts including some extremely insightful observations about the nature of international politicking involved in the ongoing fight to protect whales.

C. George Muller delivers an entertaining story that combines fact and fiction nicely to make this an interesting, thought provoking and enjoyable read.

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Marine Mammal Research Scientist

“Finally, a book that incorporates real-life concerns with edge of your seat adventure.”

Echoes in the Blue, by author C. George Muller, was thoroughly enjoyable and a breath of fresh air. The author starts off introducing the reader to the plight of the Great Whales in a heart-wrenching prologue similar to the likes of African adventure writer, Beverly Harper. Immediately you want to know who is going to attempt to save the whales and how?

From there the central characters, brothers Richard and Cal Major, are introduced. Richard, is your average, ordinary guy, who works a 9-5 job as an electronics engineer, and is unenthused about life. Down in the dumps after his wife leaves him, he is invited to join his scientist brother on a research trip studying whales in the Southern Ocean.

Richard especially, is a likable character that most people will relate to, and as a reader it was a pleasure to accompany him on this adventure of a life-time. His growth through this story is both believable and inspiring, and as Richard learns about the whales he has come to care about, so does the reader.

The remaining characters are an interesting, lively mix that represents the myriad of perceptions that seem to surround any environmental debate; economics, culture, science and spiritual. Echoes in the Blue was an eye-opening, thought provoking story that took me on an action-filled adventure to a world so remote and desolate…the Southern Ocean.

It made me think about what I can do to make a difference in this world, and what is better is that a donation from each book goes to support the “Save the Whales” initiative so just by reading it you are helping. Good on Mr. Muller for bringing this issue to the main-stream!

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SAFE Magazine
Reviewed by Andrew Phillips

The debate over whaling is one environmental issue that is beginning to fade away from the public's eye, even while each year the International Whaling Commission meets to decide the fate of the Moratorium, and each year, the vote gets closer. This book presents, in the form of an eco-terrorist thriller, the reality of whaling and puts forward a powerful argument for retaining the Moratorium. The story follows a marine scientist and his frustration with the Japanese pelagic fleet destroying his research. The author is a marine scientist himself, and he captures the horror of whaling with powerful imagery and shifting perspectives. The book describes and comments on the research, the whaling, the International Whaling Commission, and the various domestic responses to the issue, while retaining a lively and interesting plot. It is an important book; it inspires belief in the cause, calling for a rise of consciousness and activism. It also makes one feel slightly better about buying the book, as half of what the author makes from the book; he gives to charities that help the whale cause. In all, a thrilling story, with an important message, definitely worth a read.

Courtesy of Andrew Phillips. SAFE magazine.

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Animal Law, Policy & Ethics Consultant
Dr Kristin Stewart

A new anti-whaling book called Echoes in the Blue by New Zealand author and wildlife biologist C. George Muller is now available. The book is what publishers have termed “fact-based” fiction, and tells a compelling story about humanity’s conflict with the natural world based on evidence about illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean.

I was eager to read Muller’s latest work for several reasons. First, the way he weaves a fictional story based in real world data collected about contemporary whaling activity is akin to how I incorporated composite narrative into parts of my own dissertation about human-dolphin encounter spaces. I also think the book is timely and important. Whaling continues today despite the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 moratorium and the establishment of the 1993 South Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Whaling nations continue to ignore (or use loopholes to circumvent) International Whaling Commission rules, and whaling seems to be expanding with Japan announcing plans to kill up to 1,500 whales annually from 2007-including species classified as vulnerable and endangered on the IUCN redlist.

Echoes in the Blue is about the real-life conflict surrounding Japan’s controversial pelagic whaling and dolphin drive kills. Muller is clear about his aim: This book is undoubtedly a bid to raise wider public awareness and support for the anti-whaling cause. His website even promises that he will donate money from every book sold to Save the Whales.

Several years ago, trained as both an attorney and a social scientist, I might have been uncomfortable publicly taking sides on any issue-even one related to whales and dolphins. But I have no problem now: In today’s world, there is no good reason to slaughter dolphins and whales. Why would I have ever been on the fence about the ethics of harming dolphins and whales-beings that have always been dear to my heart?

Early in my graduate career, before I had more fully developed my understanding of social constructionism, I experimented with the constructionist way of thinking in a paper about whales and whaling. To describe the politically charged dispute concerning modern-day whaling, I articulated the situation this way: Nations like Japan and Norway that want to continue their whaling practices have “constructed” whales as economic resources, while those that want to permanently end whaling and “Save the Whales!” have “constructed” whales as sentient, sapient beings worthy of a right to life. That is where my paper ended-with explanation, but without evaluation or recommendation. Emotionally and intellectually, I believed that whaling was wrong. But, in an effort to remain theoretically coherent, I held to a social constructionist framework and sacrificed my intuition to the constructionists’ position that I was just one more member of the camp that merely constructed whales as special.

However, the influence of hermeneutics, practical ethics, and the work of contemporary animal geographers corrected my acceptance of the inevitable relativism resulting from constructionism. We may have different ideas about what whales are or are not, and what we would like to use them for. But whales exist in the world’s oceans, regardless of human ideas about them. Moreover, convincing evidence suggests that whales are sentient, sapient, social animal subjects-regardless of whether we acknowledge as much. As animal beings with intrinsic moral value, I would now argue that their right to life outweighs any economic or cultural benefit claimed by (human) pro-whalers. In my analysis, this is the better (more nuanced, engaged and ethically superior) position, given the current whaling situation. By honoring an ethical, critical and interrelational perspective, the social constructionist argument was rendered not only incomplete, but downright offensive. Echoes in the Blue is a compelling drama that highlights the assuredly nonfictional moral incoherance of Japan’s contemporary whaling activities. Bravo, Muller!

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