|The Serpent's Coil
||[Mar. 8th, 2010|11:39 pm]
My greatest regret with this book is that I was unable to read it in an appropriately atmospheric locale: either an old Newfoundland dockside pub or a Caribbean beachfront within sight of a harbor would have been ideal. Instead, I had to make due with a dock of a different sort, in the underbelly of the building where trucks pull in with their wares.
Generally the book was a lot of fun, and the author certainly immersed himself in the subject matter: while I could follow the gist, there were some of the nautical terms that evaded my attempts to define them. Still, those few didn't hinder my appreciation of the book as a whole.
The book claims to be based on interviews detailing historical events, and I believe it. First, the accounts are fragmentary, and the amount of direct interview account that you get varies from section to section, which takes some getting used to and feels a bit haphazard. Second, the book will spend a long time building dramatic tension that then dissipates abruptly without necessarily reaching a climax: sometimes things turn out to be way easier than expected, or a long, tense task passes without incident. Only in real life would that sort of serendipity be allowed to happen. It did get me to the point, however, where I underestimated the danger to the protagonists in the final scene because of the previous false alarms.
A last complaint is that this would have been a book where a few illustrations would have been very helpful. Especially after the last scene, showing where the ships started and then subsequently wound up would have brought home the power of the final storm. Furthermore, while I can hold up my hand and think about the angle, I don't really have a good sense of what a 50 degree list to one side looks like.
But these are minor gripes. It was still a welcome relief from my regular fare.