The Perfect Storm

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9780061148460: The Perfect Storm

October 1991. It was "the perfect storm"—a tempest that may happen only once in a century—a nor'easter created by so rare a combination of factors that it could not possibly have been worse. Creating waves ten stories high and winds of 120 miles an hour, the storm whipped the sea to inconceivable levels few people on earth have ever witnessed. Few, except the six-man crew of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing boat tragically headed toward the storm's hellish center.

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Review:

Meteorologists called the storm that hit North America's eastern seaboard in October 1991 a "perfect storm" because of the rare combination of factors that created it. For everyone else, it was perfect hell. In The Perfect Storm, author Sebastian Junger conjures for the reader the meteorological conditions that created the "storm of the century" and the impact the storm had on many of the people caught in it. Chief among these are the six crew members of the swordfish boat the Andrea Gail, all of whom were lost 500 miles from home beneath roiling seas and high waves. Working from published material, radio dialogues, eyewitness accounts, and the experiences of people who have survived similar events, Junger attempts to re-create the last moments of the Andrea Gail as well as the perilous high-seas rescues of other victims of the storm.

Like a Greek drama, The Perfect Storm builds slowly and inexorably to its tragic climax. The book weaves the history of the fishing industry and the science of predicting storms into the quotidian lives of those aboard the Andrea Gail and of others who would soon find themselves in the fury of the storm. Junger does a remarkable job of explaining a convergence of meteorological and human events in terms that make them both comprehensible and unforgettable.

Review:

The unabridged audio version of Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm, read by Richard M. Davidson, moves in the same haunting fashion as the deadly storm referenced in the title. Opening slowly, the story lulls you with a false sense of calm, behind which looms an inexorable power. Almost imperceptibly the drama begins to build and before you know what's hit you, the sheer force of the cumulative events has swept you into a maelstrom of tragic human consequence.

Junger's carefully researched and sympathetic book is a mesmerizing chronicle of man's struggle against nature. Davidson's unassuming, slightly nasal tone subtly captures the drollery of the salty New England attitude. "People often get premonitions when they do jobs that could get them killed ... the trick is knowing when to listen to them." He makes listening to The Perfect Storm seem like you're bearing witness to a natural disaster. You're powerless to help, but the awesome spectacle has such an emotional hold that it's nearly impossible to turn away. Start this tape too late in the evening and you may be in for a dark and stormy night. (Running time: nine hours, six cassettes) --George Laney

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