Jason Colby has more than a historian's perspective on the era when orca whales were trapped and sold for profit and entertainment all over the world ... he tells [the Orca whales' legend] with the depth and passion the topic deserves.
It is a story not just of the orca business, but also of the evolution of Americans’ relationship to the oceans and marine life—the growth of marine parks parallels the shift from an extractive approach to the ocean, as mainly a source of fish, to a recreational one. It intersects, too, with the birth of the modern environmental movement in the 1960s and 70s ... For a generation that grew up on Shamu or Free Willy, anecdotes that Colby shares of orca hunters in 'the Old Northwest' are shocking ... As the backlash against the industry rises, the irony is clear: The captivity and display industry made people love orcas, and then hate the captivity and display industry. This is the central thrust of Colby’s book, and he returns to the point throughout ... More interesting, to me, than the judgment of history, are the moral compasses of the crying men themselves, who knew—well before Greenpeace protestors and Blackfish and the Marine Mammal Protection Act—that the animals they were hurting were sentient and sensitive; that they were doing something wrong ... it’s also a story of the intellectual hoops that we humans will jump through, like well-trained marine mammals, in order to justify the harm done in the course of making a living, or just doing whatever we want.
Colby shines a light on how little we understand of these magnificent creatures. His book gives a glimpse into a mysterious yet strangely familiar world, brought to life in a story that's tragic, heartbreaking, and finally hopeful.
At times, the amount of detail included bogs down the narrative ... However, for the many readers interested in the orca's well-being, Colby has produced an originally argued and accessibly jargon-free consideration of a hot-button animal conservation issue.
[Colby] delves into the conflicts over regulation as protestors tangled with businesses, scientists with fisherman, and fishermen with government officials. Anecdotes abound. The cast of characters is enormous ... A good choice for serious fans of Pacific Northwest and marine history but information overload for mere lovers of all the Shamus and their ilk.