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Down to a Soundless Sea [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Steinbeck
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $13.95
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Here is an unprecedented fiction debut that is cause for celebration. Growing up in a family that valued the art of storytelling and the power of oral history, Thomas Steinbeck now follows in his father’s footsteps with a brilliant story collection. Down to a Soundless Sea resonates with the rich history and culture of California, recalling vivid details of life in Monterey County from the turn of the century through the 1930s. Steinbeck accomplishes an amazing feat: his stories have the feel of classic literature, but his haunting voice, forceful narrative drive, and dazzling imagery are unmistakably his own.

In seven stories, Steinbeck traces the fates and dreams of an eccentric cast of characters, from sailors and ranchers, to doctors and immigrants—as each struggles to carve out a living in the often inhospitable environment of rocky cliffs, crashing surf, and rough patches of land along the California coast and the Big Sur. In “Blind Luck,” a wayward orphan finds his calling at sea, only to learn that life must concede to the whims of authority and the ravages of nature. In “Dark Watcher,” with the country at the start of the Great Depression, a professor craves a plausible discovery to boost his academic standing—and encounters the Indian myth of a shadowed horsemen that may ruin his career. “An Unbecoming Grace” tracks the route of a country physician who cares for an ill-tempered cur—but feels more concern for the well-being of the patient’s beleaguered young wife. The collection concludes with “Sing Fat and the Imperial Duchess of Woo,” a novella that follows the tragic love story between a young apothecary and the woman he hopes to marry.

Deeply felt and richly imagined, full of compelling drama and historical authenticity, Down to a Soundless Sea heralds the arrival of a bold new voice in fiction. Thomas Steinbeck has written stories as memorable and rugged as the coastline that inspired them.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stylistically speaking, the apple doesn't fall far from the family tree in this debut collection by Steinbeck (son of John), a solid series of stories that deal with the settling of the Monterey Peninsula early in the 20th century. Steinbeck is especially successful when he writes long and develops his narrative line, most notably in "Blind Luck," the tale of a young seaman who goes through a rough initiation during his first voyage, surviving a tragic accident and ultimately fulfilling his desire to become an engineer and then a captain. Another noteworthy effort is the engrossing, novella-length "Sing Fat and the Imperial Duchess of Woo," about a Chinese immigrant who meets the love of his life while studying medicine with an older Chinese apothecary. Nature is a major presence in almost all seven of these stories, especially in two of the shorter entries: "The Night Guide" deals with the adventure of a young boy who uses his skills to locate his mother in the woods during a storm, while "The Wool Gatherer" describes the awe of a young man (a "daydreaming book hound" named John Steinbeck) when he spots a legendary Big Sur bear. A couple of entries fall victim to murky plotting and elliptical storytelling, but Steinbeck's naturalism and his accomplished voice make it clear that the family's literary legacy is in very good hands.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This very appealing first collection draws on folklore, historical research, and tales that Steinbeck (son of John) heard growing up. The stories celebrate the early lore of Monterey County, CA the seaside locale so beloved by the author's father. Set in the dusky past of horse trails, grizzly bears, and small fishing villages and ranging forward to the early 1930s, they portray humble people living in a beautiful but often unforgiving environment. "Sing Fat and the Imperial Duchess of Woo," for example, is a heartbreakingly tender story of love tragically interrupted by a surprise ocean storm. The immigrant experience also pops up. These are inspiring stories about hardy individuals who confront hardship, loss, and the potent power of nature with remarkable fortitude and grace. A noble addition to the Steinbeck legacy, this collection is enthusiastically recommended for all libraries. Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1290 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 9, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FBFMJ8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,798 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Steinbeck proves he's a very good writer October 28, 2002
I would not want to be Thomas Steinbeck. Imagine: you spend half of your time explaining who you are, the other half explaining who you aren't, and wait for the inevitable question, "Do you write, too?" Steinbeck has blazed his own path, acquiring large if quiet success as a photojournalist, cinematographer, and screenwriter. And, yes, he does write, too. And quite well.
The conundrum one encounters when approaching DOWN TO A SOUNDLESS SEA is approaching it on its own terms without using John Steinbeck as a reference and comparison point. Steinbeck could have avoided at least a portion of the dilemma by writing in a specialized genre, such as science fiction or horror and thus rendered intergenerational comparisons moot. He instead meets the problem head on; the short fiction collected in DOWN TO A SOUNDLESS SEA are Steinbeck's literary transcriptions of tales he grew up hearing from his father and from others who dropped by his household. Steinbeck wisely avoids disclosing to his readers who some of these "others" were, but anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of John Steinbeck's friends and contemporaries can easily guess. The settings for these stories --- Big Sur and the California coast --- were also frequently used by Steinbeck the Father. Thomas Steinbeck, however, has found his own voice, and his own words. He passes, and surpasses the "John Smith" test: if DOWN TO A SOUNDLESS SEA was written by John Smith, it would be worth picking up, and reading.
DOWN TO A SOUNDLESS SEA consists of seven stories; if there is a common thread it is one of men following dreams and remaining true to their internal vision, though not always wisely, not always successfully.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Collection of Stories to Read by the Fire October 31, 2003
Living on the central coast adds to the richness that is this book of short stories created by the son of John Steinbeck. I'm sure that many readers will gauge what Thomas Steinbeck does here by the works of his prestigious father. But I chose to read them for the sheer enjoyment of discovering a new author who happens to live in the same area I do. I wasn't disappointed.
It is worth noting that Mr. Steinbeck likes to tell his stories with narration, not dialogue. You'll find little of the latter in this collection. But what you WILL find is an anthology of stories that all take place on or near the sea (thus the title), and more readable while sitting around a campfire, giving your kids or family an earful as you read the tales aloud. They'll get a peek into the local legends around the Monterey area that will surely remain with them for years to come.
The first story in this collection, 'The Night Guide', is about a young boy named Frank Post (of local Post Ranch fame) and his early heritage growing up as a half-breed Native American. When his mother (a native Rumsen Indian) goes missing during a terrible storm, young Frank is visited by a vision and shown where his mother is at. The child rescues his mother from underneath a downed tree. The boy becomes somewhat legendary because of this event. That, and he was probably 'the first child born in the high Sur under the American flag.'
'The Wool Gatherer' pays homage to Thom Steinbeck's father. Young J.E. Steinbeck Jr. works his summers as a ranch hand down in Big Sur on The Post Ranch, and on his way to the ranch one summer, John sees a legendary beast staring down at him from a high cliff vantage point. Then it vanishes. John squanders away his entire summer trying to find the creature again, but never does.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read November 4, 2003
I thoroughly enjoyed Thomas Steinbeck's storytelling. Vivid images, superb words, lots of nice surprises. I plan to read several of these stories to my 12 year old son -- who I know will also enjoy. Should be recommended high school reading.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling October 8, 2002
A mesmerizing collection of seven short stories, narrated with grace and power. Thomas Steinbeck remains the rightful heir to his father's gift for writing, as well as the landscape of Monterey, Pacific Grove, and especially Big Sur, which captivates the reader and initiates one into the mystical aura of its setting, with the sea being a unifying motif. Hauntingly beautiful is the final novella "Sing Fat and the Duchess of Woo."
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasured Find January 4, 2007
Being a life-long John Steinbeck fan, I began reading this book with the clear objective of "being gracious" and trying not to expect too much, since it might fall short of his father's talents. I was so pleasantly proven wrong! Thomas Steinbeck has NOT had to fall back on his family name to be successful. His writing can stand alone on its own merit. I love this book, and while I have already recommended it to friends and associates, I will not be getting rid of it by passing it on, as I often do. It's a "keeper" and I will read it again. Thomas Steinbeck can clearly turn a phrase, and it appears that he can do so naturally. He clearly possesses acute observational skills, and knows human personalities. His characters are full of life and are fully three-dimensional. One does not walk away from this book wondering "Why was this guy or that girl in the plot?" They all hold intrinsic and valuable places in the whole. Not only are these stories interesting and often entertaining, they hold social redeeming values. Thomas Steinbeck, with one book, has shown serious readers that a new kid is on the block, and is a force to be reckoned with. This book is a must read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the history
It was a great read. I live in the area written about so I could really see the places he talked about. I felt I was there. It touched my heart.
Published 1 month ago by Joyce A Renshaw
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Father Like Son
Thomas Steinbeck writes with the vivid California imagery of the late John Steinbeck, continuing to build on the tome of greatness that is the Steinbeck writing legacy. Read more
Published on November 24, 2011 by A. Vickers
1.0 out of 5 stars A Terrible Waste
This book is everything that Dan Schneider at [...].htm has written. The world is full of wonderful books - this is not one of them.
Published on July 31, 2010 by J. L. Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars A Promising Start
This book, which is a collection of short stories that the author has collected or researched over the years, is a promising start. Read more
Published on August 4, 2009 by C.P.M.
2.0 out of 5 stars Abysmal, amatuerish, and less exciting than counting sheep
It was with some embarrassment that I read The Dark Watcher and determined that anyone related to the famous can have a book published. Mr. Read more
Published on July 28, 2009 by Hollywood Hack
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning
If I told you John Steinbeck's son was as good a storyteller his dad would I exceed credibility?

I had the great pleasure of reading "Down to a Soundless Sea" by Thomas... Read more
Published on March 4, 2009 by Adam Miller
1.0 out of 5 stars Garbage
I'd love to say that this pabulum would never have gotten published were Tommy's surname not Steinbeck but I know better. Read more
Published on October 16, 2008 by Cosmoetica
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional
No two ways about it--I just loved this book. Every story is a gem, but best of all was the last and longest tale, Sing Fat and the Imperial Duchess of Woo. Read more
Published on October 17, 2007 by Hugh R. Winig
5.0 out of 5 stars From the son: A beautiful voice
Ballantine isn't a small publishing house, but few would have bothered with a book of short stories. Read more
Published on August 7, 2006 by The Cashmere Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, entertaining, different.
Just finished Thomas Steinbeck's book and did enjoy it very much. The characters are odd and varied and all seem perfectly real....I expect most are based on real people. Read more
Published on November 4, 2003 by Thomas L. Ogren
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More About the Author

Thomas Steinbeck has sold numerous screenplays over the life of his career. In 2002, Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House published his first book of short stories entitled, "Down To a Soundless Sea". His first novel, "In the Shadow of the Cypress" was published by Simon and Schuster in 2010.

Along with his writing and producing obligations, Mr. Steinbeck does a great deal of public speaking where he lectures on American literature, creative writing, and the communication arts and their benefits to contemporary society. He serves as an honorary board member at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood and the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University as well as the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California .

Thomas has been an active and verbal proponent of authors' rights. In 2009, he worked closely with his friend Arlo Guthrie, in a successful initiative to implement an extension to the settlement negotiations between Google and the Author's Guild.

Mr. Steinbeck contributed to the My California Project, a collaboration of short stories written by twenty-seven of California's most important authors, in an attempt to save the floundering California Arts Council. "My California" is in its third print run.

He has recently completed another work of fiction and a series of three novellas. He is currently working on a memoir.

Thomas lives in California.


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