From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this fascinating, suspenseful first person account of his capture by Somali pirates, which dominated news media for five days in April 2009, captain Phillips brings the growing pirate threat (up 20 percent in 2009's first quarter) to life. An experienced Merchant Marine, Phillips was recently made captain of the cargo vessel Maersk Alabama, and, like all captains, was weary of the threat from pirates: "since 2005... captains had been going out fifty, then one hundred... then six hundred miles" to avoid the Somali coast. His feeling that "if pirates got onboard, it was all over" proves unfortunately correct; it took the armed criminals just five minutes to board the ship and take the bridge. Phillips has a sailor's penchant for the dramatic, which he puts to good use alternating between his own five-day ordeal-replete with Navy SEALs and a daring escape attempt-and the plight of his family in Vermont, watching the drama unfold on cable news. Despite his harrowing experience, Phillips stays afloat with steadfast faith and an unfailing sense of humor that are, ultimately, rewarded. Phillips's story is not just riveting and timely, but also an informative, heartening look at perhaps the least-celebrated branch of the U.S. military, the Merchant Marines.
*Starred Review* It was absolutely inevitable that Captain Philips of the Maersk Alabama would write about the hijacking of his ship by Somali pirates and his ordeal as their hostage. A mariner of 30 years’ experience when his ship was taken, he had in place all the security precautions to keep his crew safe and hidden. This left him as the only possible hostage and led to an ordeal of several days in a lifeboat in the hands of pirates whom he portrays, with compassion and balance, as alternately conciliatory, vicious, and simply not all there. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy assembled a task force large enough to fight a small war, and tension steadily rose, as did Phillips’ fear for his life. The pirate leader decamped, and the other three died in a classic hostage rescue by U.S. Navy SEALs. Phillips then entered the media typhoon his family and friends had already been enduring—his wife, Andrea, deserves her own laurel wreath for invincible loyalty and determination—but in the end escaped that, too. He is last seen hanging out the washing because Andrea has to make it to work, and one closes the book with an overpowering sense that this time, for once, the good guys won. --Roland Green