Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shipkiller, The (Justin Scott)

Rating: 5/5
Year: 1978
Genre: Thriller/Drama
Read again? Yes

It was only supposed to be a three-week tour, a three-week...okay, no. Wrong shipwreck.

Peter and Carolyn Hardin are crossing the Atlantic aboard their sailboat, the Siren. About 100 miles southwest of the southern tip of England, Siren is shattered and scattered to the seas by Leviathan, an enormous supertanker a third of a mile long and loaded with a million tons of crude oil.

Carolyn is lost.

Hardin wakes up in a hospital in Fowey, Cornwall, on the south end of England, but his nightmare is far from over. There is no justice to be found anywhere: there is no proof that Leviathan ran him down--no body, no wreckage. All official avenues quickly close to him. Driven by grief and fury, Hardin embarks on a vendetta: destroy the monster that killed his wife. Sink Leviathan.

Is he evil? Insane? Certainly many of the other characters think so, but Scott doesn't spend time trying to make us wonder about it. He does pause at points to show us that there is a human being in there, when Hardin is reminded of his dead wife, or when he has nightmares of a great black steel wall coming for him. One touching moment has Hardin realizing that he can't even remember what Carolyn looked like. He reaches for his wallet, seeking a picture of his wife before realizing that there is no picture. His wallet, his pants, these are all things he had to buy after Leviathan killed her. It's only been a few weeks.

I like Scott's style--short, direct sentences that take you where you need to be without a lot of fuss and side trips. He uses dialog for talking rather than explaining, and it has the choppy feel of actual conversation. The writing flows like ocean waves; we are drawn into Hardin's obsession, we see how it drives him to sail all the way into the Persian Gulf for just one shot at his enemy.

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