Shark novel wins national award

Submitted by Gene Helfman

“Don’t you think sharks should have rights, too?” Apparently, the judges of the Reader Views National Book Awards think so. They awarded the 2023/24 Silver Prize for Fictional Humor to Gene Helfman’s novel, FINS, A Novel of Relentless Satire. The contest considered both fiction and non-fiction entries, with FINS topping the list of fictional humor entrants. The panel praised the writing as “captivating and flows well. The action-packed scenes…lead the reader headlong into a suspense-filled drama that is unlike any shark book previously written. [FINS is] a hilariously dark novel that will appeal to a wide range of audiences…Page after page, suspense builds into a frenzy.”

The novel recounts the plight of sharks who were dumped overboard while still alive after having their fins cut off. What follows is a series of puzzling shark attacks that suggests that sentient sharks are cooperating to exact more than revenge, all in their quest to get their fins back. FINS combines the elements of the typical horror film or novel with modern science, in a unique, humorous, shark-friendly manner. The appeal of FINS is widespread because people still want to be frightened by sharks. But increasingly, these same people and much of the public are horrified at the brutal practice of finning. The book is additionally timely as 2024 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of the ultimate shark horror story, JAWS.

Lopez Island resident Gene Helfman’s 2021 debut novel, Beyond the Human Realm, about a captive orca released into the wild, won two national awards for animal fiction. In both that novel and FINS, a strong conservation message prevails. FINS is however primarily a spoof of the sharksploitation horror genre (think JAWS I-III, Sharknado I-VI, The Meg I, II, etc). As in the orca novel, FINS is an eco-fictional depiction of animal behavior, with a conservation message snuck in between the laughs. Consider it a beach read that might keep you out of the water. Profits will again be donated to marine conservation efforts.

FINS, A Novel of Relentless Satire is available at local bookstores and via the monolithic online corporate entities, in paperback and electronic versions. Gene can be reached at