Beyond The Human Realm

We rated this book:


It’s always incredible to note the changes that can occur in a lifetime. I’m not yet thirty, but I’ve seen a vast shift in many social attitudes, and I have every hope those shifts will push through to their logical conclusions. (At least, I hope so, when it comes to the shifts involving extending kindness to more than it reaches now.) One of those shifts has been the treatment of cetaceans, especially in marine parks. When I was a little girl, almost too young to remember, I went to see an orca show at Seaworld. These days, after movies like Blackfish and the growing proof that orcas are not only capable of feeling but may well be intelligent, those shows have begun to close down.

I don’t think it would have been impossible to publish Beyond the Human Realm before now. I’m certain, though, it would not have been received as well as it deserves to today.

Primarily the story of an orca traumatized by his time at a marine park, Beyond the Human Realm brings in so much more than just a tale of hurt and growth. For one thing, there is genuine science behind it, even behind the more speculative parts. Helfman has a Ph.D. in ecology, and it shows. This is possibly one of the most grounded nature novels I have read, and while I went into it slightly skeptical, especially with the slow start, I soon found myself won over. Helfman treats orcas not as reservoirs of animal wisdom that humans have become separated from (though there are some aspects of this in the book) but as characters in their own right. Some are wise, some are foolish, some are scarred inside and out. It takes all of them to make up their world, just as it takes all people to make up ours.

There were only two things I didn’t enjoy much about the book. The first was the romance. While done much better than I have seen in other books, it felt forced. The other is something all writers must face when writing nonhuman cultures: names. Helfman chose to have his orcas give themselves English names, like Sam, Nan, and Rose. This isn’t a choice that works well for me, especially when so much attention is given to the fact that white Americans are still the newcomers to the Pacific Northwest. Still, it is a small quibble and one that may not bother others. On the whole, I highly recommend this book.

Reviewed By:

Author Gene Helfman
Star Count /5
Format Trade
Page Count 423 pages
Publisher self-published via Luminare Press
Publish Date 12-Jul-2021
ISBN 9781643886596 Buy this Book
Issue December 2021
Category Science & Nature