Perseus Voyage to the North Star: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780786707997

Voyage to the North Star: A Novel

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9780786707997: Voyage to the North Star: A Novel

An old-fashioned adventure yarn. . .[Nichols's] story pulses with action that is given an extra measure of verisimilitude by his deep knowledge of boats and the sea and the watery landscapes of the Far North. - Richard Bernstein, New York Times. As harrowing as a tale by Jack London, its vision as haunting as Joseph Conrad's, this masterful novel of maritime adventure crosses the paths of Carl Schenck, a ruthless industrialist whose wealth is as fabulous as his big-game hunter's appetite for blood is limitless, and Will Boden, a seaman down on his luck. It is Schenck's blind resolve to launch an Arctic safari that affords Boden the opportunity to do what no seasoned seaman would, and flouting his own foreboding, he signs on with the Lodestar, a yacht luxuriously appointed for pleasure but drastically ill-equipped for navigating the Arctic. Together, these two men are bound in an epic misadventure that confronts them with not only the perils of the polar seas but also a horrifying moral disaster. "Its major themes consciously derived from those of Conrad and Melville. . .[it is] a fiercely eventful novel." - New York Times; "A finely crafted adventure and a crackling good read." - Chicago Tribune; "An impressive first novel. . . . A literary page-turner that is driven as much by ideas and the writing as plot and characters." - USA Today.

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Review:

"Boden understood suddenly that his reluctant fascination with Schenck came from the man's deliberate heedlessness, in all things, to obstacles that would be so apparent to others."

Will Boden, the hero of Peter Nichols's Voyage to the North Star, is not the only one fascinated by this reckless and flamboyant millionaire. After all, New York circa 1932 is short on opulence, and Carl Schenck's sexy yachts and publicity stunts are front-page news. Rich from his invention of a manure mover, Schenck is determined to thumb his nose at the old-money fops who have lost everything in the depression. On top of that, his taste for Teddy Roosevelt-inspired danger verges on madness. When an African big-game hunt proves too tame, he decides to take an ill-prepared yacht to the Arctic to shoot seals, caribou, polar bears, walruses, whales--whatever offers the most kicks. (He also plans to dynamite his way through the icebergs.)

Boden, a disgraced sea captain, has spent enough time in Arctic waters to know they are no place for a luxury yacht. But ever since he lost his ship (due to an overcautious maneuver), his personal life has been crumbling. An old salt named Moyle convinces him that a return to the Arctic, even with Schenck, would be preferable to suicide.

He laughed again, and then let himself think of what it was like up there: the beautiful severity; the wildflowers coming up through the tundra desolation; the drunk-seeming blaze of the northern lights. Above all, the ice: the fantastic bergs, some of them the size of Central Park; the rivers and deltas of glacial ice so big and so slowed in time's aspic that his own brief mortal concerns fell away to insignificance until he felt washed clean.
Boden signs on as a stoker, but it soon becomes apparent that the Lodestar is in need of his knowledge of the powerful, sublime elements of the far north--the ice floes, bent-light optical illusions, ferocious bears, deadly cold, and obfuscating fog. It also needs someone to stand up to an owner who will risk the lives of everyone on board for a trophy rack of antlers or for the thrill of firing a harpoon needlessly into an iceberg. Nichols's self-assured first novel cruises at high speed, with plenty of grip-your-chair action. And as with icebergs, the crashes between characters draw their strength from what lurks beneath the surface. --John Ponyicsanyi

From Kirkus Reviews:

On firm, even mesmerizing footing in treating devices nautical and details of both land and sea, first-novelist Nichols (a memoir, Sea Change, 1997) can't quite bring off the odd lot of shipmates in this ill-begotten voyage, a rich man's folly into the Arctic in pursuit of trophy game at the height of the Depression. In keeping with its epigraph from Conrad, there are two primary forces at work in this story's heart of darkness: down-on-his-luck Boden, a true seaman and former captain who abandoned a ship that never sank and got branded unfairly to allincluding himself as a coward; and rags-to-riches Schenck, for whom all obstacles are trifles in the gratification of his desire of the moment. First linked aboard a speedboat prototype that Schenks putting through its paces on Long Island Sound, trying to impress would-be investors and Boden, as its future captain, the true adventure for the two awaits, as the tycoon also wants him at the helm of a ship that will carry Schenck and his family to the Arcticwhich Boden knows and loves from previous voyagesin order to hunt. The sleek yacht he eventually decides to use comes with a captain, however, so Boden is cast off, but he decides nonetheless to make the trip as a stoker in the engine room. From there he proves his dead-reckoning skills and knowledge of local waters second to none, though he can't keep the ship or her crew safe: the very first expedition ashore goes awry in a midsummer snowstorm and two men die. Timely help from Indians reunites the hunting party and the ship, but not before an act of depravity renders the natives implacably hostile. And then, barely having set course for home, Schenck singlehandedly turns his beautiful boat into a shipwreck. Colorful, inventive, intensely evocative, but overstocked with points of vieweven a polar bear has his say, as he makes a meal of one of the crew. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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