Deep below the surface, our world is cold, dark and content. Colors are fickle. Red disappears first as you descend, followed by the yellow of the sun. The hundred shades of blue last the longest, but eventually there is only black—and the candied ooze of the ocean floor...
In Underjungle, an intelligent life form known as the yc exist in the ocean’s depths, an apex predator among most fish. Long ago, this species fractured from a single group into seven distinct tribes, each with their own dialect and cultural idiosyncrasies. Now, one tribe, the Gjala, has stumbled across a most intriguing and unusual object: a sunken corpse. As news travels across the ocean, and the other tribes converge to investigate, the consequences and questions raised will reverberate for generations to come.
Underjungle asks readers to give themselves up to another world: to step outside not just of themselves, but of their species. A broad metaphysical story of fantastical world-building from accomplished journalist and nature writer James Sturz, Underjungle is a lyrical tale of love and war, encompassing the marine environment, science, art, philosophy and grief—as deep and surprising as life on the seafloor, where much of this story is set.
Buoyed by humor and tinged with the unshakeable melancholy of loss is the existential question that forever ties the novel to our human experience: what is our purpose?
Praise for Underjungle
"UNDERJUNGLE is poetry, fantasy, love, war, mystery and philosophy. This book will make you think about the ocean in ways you haven’t before, and that might just make you want to protect it. I’ve dived with James, and I'm pleased to see that he has created this fascinating and complex story about the ocean and our deep connection to it."
—Jean-Michel Cousteau, Ocean Futures Society
"So, so gorgeously strange, told by a sea creature, and set completely underwater... UNDERJUNGLE glints with humor and heart."
—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times Bestselling author of 'With or Without You'
"In Underjungle, James Sturz creates a world so colorful, imaginative, and diverse that it could only exist within the waters of Planet Ocean. It brings us into intimate contact with a wildly strange, incredible, and yet familiar imagining of aquatic life—and it takes us on a fascinating poetic journey that’s a joy to read and will make you love the ocean even more. Underjungle is a script for weaving dreams."
—Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the Captain Paul Watson Foundation
"Not many of us would have the audacity to write a novel where the only human character is a corpse decomposing on the ocean floor, but in Underjungle James Sturz has met this challenge in dazzling fashion. To get a more intimate view of the world under the waves, you’d have to become fish food yourself, so instead I recommend this profound and unclassifiable novel, a mind-expanding Aeneid of the seas."
—Ned Beauman, author of Venomous Lumpsucker and Boxer, Beetle
"James Sturz has written a strange and beautiful book that defies the usual categories. It’s a love story, a war story, and undersea epic and a meditation on the human hand. By the time you finish it you will know a lot more about what is happening in the sea around us—which may be the most important story of our time."
—John Benditt, author of The Boatmaker
"A beautifully written, unique novel that contemplates many of life’s big questions as it intrigues and entertains. A delightful read set deep in the ocean, in a part of our planet we’re just beginning to understand."
—Bernie Chowdhury, author of The Last Dive
"As a reader, I love to have my mind blown. James Sturz does this in his singular Underjungle, an entire novel told from the point of view of fish. Fish! And unknown sea creatures! With great authority, Sturz is able to capture it all: love, loss, heartbreak, danger. I unwittingly learned so much about ocean life, another world, similar but also different than our own."
—Marcy Dermansky, author of Hurricane Girl and Very Nice
"Reality, it has been said, is the aggregate of all perceptions, not just our human ones. The wondrously original Underjungle affords the reader rich access to just such perceptions, to a vivid inhuman world. And yet I marveled at the deep sensation of feeling more human for having read it, and have relished, long after the last page, the rock of the waves in my bones."
—Chris Dombrowski, author of The River You Touch
"It’s OK to eat fish/ ‘cause they don’t have any feelings,’ warbled Kurt Cobain, verbalizing the disconnection many humans have from sea creatures and their vast ocean home. But fish and other critters in Underjungle definitely have feelings—and opinions!—on love, life, tribal affiliations, and the perplexing visitation from an alien being. James Sturz’s narrator is a charismatic, poetic, sometimes snarky guide to exploring the ocean and its denizens in a wholly original way."
—Erica Gies, author of Water Always Wins
"In Underjungle, James Sturz has crafted a magical, mystical, almost mythological narrative unlike anything else I know, an undersea morality tale for our hurt kind struggling through this postlapsarian mess we made."
—William Giraldi, author of Hold the Dark and Busy Monsters
"An artistic romp in the underwater world, showing us that humanity barely scratches the surface of understanding our water planet. What a fascinating read!"
—Jill Heinerth, author of Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver
"What can I say about Underjungle but Oh my God. So, so gorgeously strange, told by a sea creature, and set completely underwater, the Underjungle (even the title is fantastic) is about all the big issues—love, loss, family, war—but it’s also about how all the oceans, like all of us, are connected—and the dangers when we forget that, and it’s written in prose as startlingly beautiful as the discovery of a real pearl shimmering in an oyster. A love letter to our oceans, Underjungle glints with humor and heart, and it’s totally unlike anything you’ve ever read before."
—Caroline Leavitt, author of With or Without You
"Underjungle is unlike anything I’ve ever read: a feverish tale told feverishly by one of the sea’s inhabitants. It’s a story that will devour you as you devour it, a terrifying tale of war and peace beneath the waves and a paean to the natural underwater beauty that exists without our noticing. It will break your heart, even as it implicates you, lashing you against the coral and feeding you to the sharks. I’m in awe of James Sturz’s ravishing, sun-lit, ink-black book full of mesmerizing characters who come to life on the page and resonate with you love after you’ve read the last word. You’re going to love this book and its astonishing conclusion."
—David Samuel Levinson, author of Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence and Tell Me How This Ends Well
"This love song to the unseen life of the ocean is a thing of passion, beauty, and shimmering fish. Deep inside James Sturz's singular and engaging story, there's a message for us who dwell on land: Not just to take care of the ocean, but of one another as well."
—Daphne Merkin, author of 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love
"In this strange and engaging dystopian novel, Sturz poses more questions than answers. Life beneath the sea may strike most of us as peaceful and serene, but Underjungle’s invented underwater realm is surprisingly violent—an echo of the world above?"
—Virginia Morell, author of Animal Wise and Becoming a Marine Biologist
"Underjungle is a wondrously beautiful tale told in language that made me feel I was breathing the atmosphere of an exotic and miraculous planet. Of course, I was. But the most amazing thing is that, the whole time, I was breathing underwater."
—Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and Beyond Words
"An otherworldly romance full of poetry and wisdom. I love this novel—a strange, beautiful, and wholly original book. To read James Sturz’s Underjungle is to be enchanted."
—Iris Smyles, author of Droll Tales
"Underjungle isn’t just a novel. It’s a symphonic meditation on existence, heartache, and underwater worlds beyond our imaginings. In prose both witty and elegiac, Sturz’s finned narrator plunges readers into the ocean’s depths, evoking such vivid tastes, textures, and scents that they may find themselves reluctant to come up for air."
—Jennifer Steil, author of Exile Music and The Ambassador’s Wife