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SWELL [Kindle Edition]

Corwin Ericson
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Reminiscent of Christopher Moore’s ‘Fluke’ and Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods,’ this slightly fantastical tale is told from the perspective of ever reluctant Orange Whippey, the story of his involvement in the comically unnecessary Whale Network unfolds as rival whaling factions, Korean smugglers/ultra tourists/storytellers, and a privacy advocating talking head all do their best to keep him from doing what he would ultimately prefer to do: Nothing. Set on the tiny, fictional island of Bismuth, it moves at a languid pace as Orange is dragged, far too often, to writhing lagoons, rusted ship hulks, hellish saunas, and private islands, creating a subtly farcical, always absurd setting for numerous misadventures

Editorial Reviews


""A raucous roller-coaster ride . . . the writer deconstructs all things New England to hilarious effect. Ericson's tale reveals strong flavors of Tom Robbins, but there is also a splash of Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Just sit back and enjoy the long strange trip.""
Shelf Awareness

""This delightfully loopy debut combines Down East deadpan with elements of Nordic mythology and Pynchonesque pyrotechnics. Ericson's Maine coastal setting lies at the edge of the surreal.""
Publishers Weekly

“Swell reads like an early Tom Robbins novel. It's stuffed with fresh-feeling observations—and old observations dolled up in just the right pair of Groucho Marx glasses—giving many chapters the feel of a hilarious, discursive night at the bar with a talented bullshit artist. Even though Whippey's the literary equivalent of an old friend who crashes on your couch for a week too long, you can't help but fall in love with him. He's a romantic, and his obvious adoration for coastal life in New England will leave you longing for a vacation in Melville country.”
— Paul Constant, The Stranger

""Jaunty, playful, hilarious, and imminently readable, Swell is much more than an auspicious debut, it's that rarest of birds, a good old-fashioned reading pleasure.""
— Jonathan Evison, best-selling author of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving and West of Here

Orange himself reads like Pynchon’s Doc Sportello. Add a splash of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, too . . . A superbly crafted mixture of humor and observations of modern life, a combination of barely-noticeable detective fiction and magical realism, something uniquely its own and, in the end, a truly good read. Swell is a fantastic novel.
Line Zero

“Gaiman meets Barth in a novel about a cellphone network made out of whales. It’s time to go away to sea. [. . .] The question is, are you ready for Whalepunk?”

“A postmodern maritime epic.”
Necessary Fiction

“A ridiculously anarchic good read that makes Moby Dick look about as exciting as a lobster fishing manual. Swell rises and falls like the ocean, gradually working its way towards a conclusion that’s both emotionally satisfying and curiously open. If you’ve ever wondered what Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas might have been like if Hunter S. Thompson had set it at sea, then you finally have your answer.”
— Dan Coxon, Culture Mob

“Orange Whippey is a degenerate loser from the tiny North Atlantic island of Bismuth who somehow, despite his best intentions of remaining a loser, inexplicably winds up heading a plot involving whale herders, Korean drug smugglers, an aquatic cell phone network, Norse mythology, and the subtle intricacies of Jaws, the novel. Hilarious and weird, yet bizarrely heartwarming and filled with unforgettable characters. I loved every single hilarious word of it.”
The Book Catapult

About the Author

Corwin Ericson lives in western Massachusetts where he works as an editor, professor, and writer. He is the author of the chapbook Checked Out OK (Factory Hollow Press, 2011), a collection of police reports. Swell is his first novel. More info can be found at and

Product Details

  • File Size: 773 KB
  • Print Length: 395 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0984428844
  • Publisher: Dark Coast Press (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0061QLIR6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,027 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
. . . anyone who's ever lived on an island, a small town, or a fishing village will get this book . . . it's whimsical, hilarious, and has cult status written all over it . . . if ericson should fail to suspend your disbelief with this whale of a tale, he will keep you reading with the sheer joy of his writing . . . tom robbins meets herman melville . . .
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Swell: A Beached Whale of a Tale July 25, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Tom Robbins (Still Life with Woodpecker), Alexander Theroux (Laura Warholic), and Richard Brautigan walk into a bar. They are joined by Herman Melville, a small contingent from Greenpeace, and a Scandanavian skald. Instead of crafting a bad joke, they collaborate to write Corwin Ericson's Swell. Its sea anchor being cut loose, the plot of Ericson's first novel is set adrift nearly at the outset. Bismuth, a fictional island somewhere off the north east coast of North America, is the setting for this fantasy sci-fi story. Main character and narrator is Orange Whiffey whose name is a commingling of two Bismuthian ancestral families...yes, the Oranges and the Whiffeys. As a character Whiffey takes self-deprecation to a new level; in fact, it is the only personality trait that defines him. Using migrating cetaceans as antennaes for a cellphone network is the novel's plot, a creative enough idea if only Ericson would do something with it. As it is, the plot washes ashore periodically, but frustratingly it ebbs more than it flows. What follows is a lot of silliness involving North Korean smugglers (on the east coast?), the pseudo-historian and storyteller Snorri who marries bears, herds whales and drinks "old milk" from a pocket flask, Estonindian Waldena, skipper of the Hammer Maiden, an Amazonian hunter of whales. There's Angie (Whiffey's love interest although she's "not his girlfriend"), her daughter Moira, and Angie's sister Mineola Bombadier, "Priestess of Privacy" who with her armed bodyguards rule the island of Gaiety ("...actually the abbreviation of a much longer Indian name that supposedly means 'that island over there'"). These characters flounder around in the plot and this reader was not interested enough in them to come to their rescue. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly funny and smart April 18, 2012
By Susan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Read this book. What a great story; what a great voice. If the right word makes you laugh, read this book. When I described it to a coworker she said "oh! Moby Dick for laffs!" One of MANY wonderful things you could say about this piece, which is simultaneously literate and accessible; hilarious and mystical; a radiant downer without the hangover. This is easily one of the top 3 books I've read in the last year. Maybe even longer. One of those rare books that, when you finish it, you go back to the first page to start over. I was wholly pulled into Orange Whippey's (banal and awful) world and I loved it there. Frankly, I think this should replace Catcher In The Rye as the standard high school "anti-hero" read. Spoke to my inner disaffected youth and made it feel like part of the world!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Someone Please Nominate This Book For An Award January 14, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What an inventive, rollicking, laugh-out-loud novel! Though Ericson is being compared to any number of successful novelists, he's his own writer with his own unique style. The language is fantastic without being over-the-top; this is a smart writer with a giant imagination, and he treats both his characters and his readers with respect. Prepare to be immersed in the believable yet fantastical world of Bismuth. It's the best novel I've read in quite some time - the characters of Orange, Snorri, and Moira are my new heroes!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Swell by Corwin Ericson November 7, 2011
This debut novel by Ericson is a great read if you're into slightly fantastical plots set in the hard earned 'reality' of not-so lackadaisical island life. Not too heavy, not too light, this book is ridiculously hilarious and perfectly rowdy. Ericson's use of language is incredible, and he paints a vivid tale of loss and gain, of foolish floundering, and unintentional self-discovery. Overall this is a fun, sarcastic, and witty read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A single Ishmael surrounded by Ahabs January 21, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I laughed my way through Swell. Its characters were likable and its plot was wonderfully unpredictable.

I love fiction that uses as its central characters the indolent yet thoughtful type of people I have often known. Like the stranded Ishmael clinging to his trunk at the end of Moby Dick, Orange Whippey is at the mercy of the sea of silliness that surrounds him on the imaginary island of Bismuth.

Not the ocean but a scheming, mysterious, diverse cluster of friends, lovers and employers buffet our hero from one hilarious scene to the next, imposing their will upon his indolent person with Ahab-ish intensity. This is an unconventional read in the tastiest sense of the word. Swell has that magical combination of seeming to come from a familiar place in our literary tradition while bursting with a freshness that current fiction generally lacks.

In this age of mean-spirited humor, Ericson makes every character funny and somewhat likable, while avoiding silly stereotypes or cultural shortcuts to fill out the cast of characters.

Melville would have loved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars slightly alternate reality February 1, 2012
By Ginger
Swell, the debut novel by Corwin Ericson, is a fascinating look at two dueling whale-centered cultures. Ericson makes even the oddest elements of Swell's universe seem utterly plausible, even logical. When you 'wake up' from the novel you will wonder why you haven't come across any whale empaths, and where you can get one of Snorri's phones. You might even start to plan a trip to Bismuth for your next vacation until you remember it was all a dream...uh, a novel. The quirky characters come across as completely normal in this place, a place that is only a slightly alternate reality. It's an educational and entertaining trip.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great read. I picked it up on a whim and I am very glad I did.
Published 6 months ago by james marquez
3.0 out of 5 stars Quick beach read
Quick moving, interesting story. I'm sure it had much deeper meaning that I didn't find, but t was fun.
Published 10 months ago by D. Friend
4.0 out of 5 stars worth it
it took a bit to get into it but it was worth sticking it out. i didnt really get the point until the very end but ot was so descriptive and totally made me wish i lived on an... Read more
Published 17 months ago by kaylam
4.0 out of 5 stars Talk about a tall tale
What a strange book. I picked it up as a Kindle Deal of the Day; it was compared to Neil Gaiman. It has a protagonist named Orange Whippey; kind of thirsty now. Read more
Published on April 20, 2013 by Eric Naumann
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun read
A tremendous imagination! Fun! A varied vocabulary and rich characters. Loved it as I spent some time Down East, ayah
Published on February 23, 2013 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining!
This novel twists a fairly routine plot line with a surreal to outrageous set of details that provide great entertainment. Read more
Published on February 18, 2013 by Lewis B. Hayes
2.0 out of 5 stars If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like
Based on the cover art and the description - Christopher Moore meets Neil Gaiman? Sign me up! - I thought I'd enjoy this novel.

I was wrong. Read more
Published on February 18, 2013 by KOS
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother
This book has humor only appreciated by teenage boys being entirely centered around drugs and penises. Read more
Published on February 18, 2013 by Athena
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is super funky, good funky, like music funky, not bad bread...
You know how Raising Arizona is so funny because it mixes almost Shakespearian monologues with modern folksy wistfulness? Read more
Published on February 13, 2013 by James Henry McKeen
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertainig
"Swell" gets a little mystical, but it's very entertaining. Good character developement, while still leaving some of the motivations and justifications up to the reader. Try it.
Published on February 6, 2013 by BigD
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