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Voyage to the North Star: A Novel Paperback – October, 2000
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Will Boden, the hero of Peter Nichols's Voyage to the North Star, is not the only one fascinated by this reckless and flamboyant millionaire. After all, New York circa 1932 is short on opulence, and Carl Schenck's sexy yachts and publicity stunts are front-page news. Rich from his invention of a manure mover, Schenck is determined to thumb his nose at the old-money fops who have lost everything in the depression. On top of that, his taste for Teddy Roosevelt-inspired danger verges on madness. When an African big-game hunt proves too tame, he decides to take an ill-prepared yacht to the Arctic to shoot seals, caribou, polar bears, walruses, whales--whatever offers the most kicks. (He also plans to dynamite his way through the icebergs.)
Boden, a disgraced sea captain, has spent enough time in Arctic waters to know they are no place for a luxury yacht. But ever since he lost his ship (due to an overcautious maneuver), his personal life has been crumbling. An old salt named Moyle convinces him that a return to the Arctic, even with Schenck, would be preferable to suicide.
He laughed again, and then let himself think of what it was like up there: the beautiful severity; the wildflowers coming up through the tundra desolation; the drunk-seeming blaze of the northern lights. Above all, the ice: the fantastic bergs, some of them the size of Central Park; the rivers and deltas of glacial ice so big and so slowed in time's aspic that his own brief mortal concerns fell away to insignificance until he felt washed clean.Boden signs on as a stoker, but it soon becomes apparent that the Lodestar is in need of his knowledge of the powerful, sublime elements of the far north--the ice floes, bent-light optical illusions, ferocious bears, deadly cold, and obfuscating fog. It also needs someone to stand up to an owner who will risk the lives of everyone on board for a trophy rack of antlers or for the thrill of firing a harpoon needlessly into an iceberg. Nichols's self-assured first novel cruises at high speed, with plenty of grip-your-chair action. And as with icebergs, the crashes between characters draw their strength from what lurks beneath the surface. --John Ponyicsanyi --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
"Not an unswerving literary trajectory. I've wanted to write - and to be a writer - since childhood. In my 20s I worked at writerly jobs in advertising and journalism while I wrote two unpublished novels. Then I stepped aboard a friend's yacht and my life swung away toward boats and the sea for a decade. I became, in turn, a boat bum, a U.S. Coast Guard-licensed commercial captain, and a proficient navigator with sextant. Then the leaky 27-foot, engineless wooden sailboat that had been my home for 5 years, in which I'd twice crossed the Atlantic, sank near the end of my third crossing (I was alone). But I had found a subject.
I was rescued and crawled ashore in Los Angeles where, naturally, I began writing screenplays. I was fatally encouraged: I found agents and made a little money, but never saw my screenplays (they were full of leaky projects and rootless characters) turned into films. Unhappy with my screenwriting career (and my non-writing career of many jobs, including being a 'ship wrangler' in Borneo for a bad pirate movie), I fled LA to a shack in Northern California where I wrote what became a memoir of my years afloat and the twinned sinkings of my boat and first marriage ("Sea Change"). In the next ten years I published a novel and three more books of non-fiction - all about not so much the sea and sailors, but fringe characters who have retreated to the water's edge and have nowhere else to go.
Being published changed everything. I went fairly quickly from being a yachtie, shepherd, carpenter, ship wrangler with literary delusions to a visiting professor of creative writing at some good colleges. I've been fortunate to have wonderful students. I love teaching because I can tell young writers what it took me decades to learn - simply, that yes, you can, if you really believe in yourself and don't give up. I dreamed of becoming a writer and I became one. And if I did it, they can too.
My novel, "The Rocks," (2015) is not about boats and the sea but represents a new direction for me as a writer of fiction. I hope there will be more non-boaty novels."
Top Customer Reviews
As the lavishly appointed "Lodestar" ventures into the arctic north, the tale grows increasingly wild. Ernest Shackleton meets "Heart of Darkness". I challenge the reader to locate another book in which death comes in the forms of polar bear attack, serial killer, and harpooning by an Eskimo lynch mob. What a mess; I mean, a serial killer! ... I felt the novel really lost its focus.
In the sprit of being constructive, I feel that any of the following books would pose a superior alternative for the reader interested in Arctic voyages: - Christoph Ransmayr's "The Terrors of Ice and Darkness" - Sebastian Junger's popular title, "The Perfect Storm" (fishing on the Grand Banks, close enough) - Barry Lopez, "Arctic Dreams" (not much sailing, but excellent, worth reading for the chapters on Narwhals and Polar Bears alone) - Alfred Lansing, "Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" (which takes place in the Antarctic, but it's as harrowing a tale as you'll ever find, and entirely true)
What I liked: I enjoyed this book, well, most of it, for it's unflinching look at human frailties, and of dreams of adventure gone off the rails, destroyed by hubris, as many dreams are. The development of the characters was entertaining and realistic, even the unsympathetic ones, such as the captain and his family. And the descriptions of arctic scenes evoked the beauty that this place must offer, to those willing to pay its price of admission.
What I didn't like: The book too a bit long to get started, and by this I don't mean the boat sailing; I refer to the meandering path the characters take until they finally meet up and begin to interact. I am OK with unlikeable characters, I feel that serve to balance the more sympathetic ones, such as Will Boden, the protagonist in this story. But more than just a tragic ending, which you kind of expect given the run-up to these events; instead this story ends in a way that leaves you question the investment in time you've made, in going along on this journey of disaster (no spoilers). Kind of like hiring someone who has an impressive resume, only to catch them stealing from you after you give them a job. The commentary on human nature imbedded in this story is at best thought-provoking, and at worst profoundly disturbing. I really liked another reviewer's description: "Ernest Shackleton meets Heart of Darkness." Very apt.
Give it a try, if you want something to think about. But before you're through, your journey will take you to the dark side.
Nichols made sure we would despise the wealthy and despicable Schenk - accidentally rich during the depression of the thirties, and wildly amused as so many of the old-guard wealthy went down in financial flames. Nichols made certain we would loathe Schenk's harlot of a daughter Harriett, the quietly brutal Joey and that detestable Captain Percival. The harrowing story was well told - credibly told by a man who knows the sea and ships - and it looked like we were on a voyage that HAD to have a rewarding ending.
And so it went, until the final two pages, where Nichols sticks a knife in our guts, seemingly gleeful over our duplicity, our trust in him. An act of savagery by Joey two-thirds into the story ultimately leads to the revengeful killing of our heroes Boden and Moyle just when it looks like they're going to get rewarded for their strength of character and grit displayed throughout the adventure, and for their heroism toward the end that saves the others from certain doom. Then in the book's Epilogue, he gives another twist to that knife in our bellies. He describes how the characters he led us to hate live even more happily ever after, and more prosperously. All, that is, except Joey, who would have been only a bit player if his acts were not of such disastrous consequences.
What in the world was Peter Nichols thinking of? If writers stray so foolishly, don't editors today dissuade them - especially new writers like Nichols - from such folly? If they can't dissuade, they can make demands.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While slow in the beginning, "Voyage to the North Star" is worth bearing. It's well written, descriptive, and the action is well described, although the characters are a bit... Read morePublished on May 26, 2012 by Andy O'Hara
This book took forever to start, the word is Prologue not Prolong. Normally I don't cut a book that much slack. But the story seemed to have merit. Read morePublished on October 13, 2010 by Candelario Henry Galvan
Although Peter Nichols attempts to create a compelling almost thought provoking thriller about man's greed and the dark animal instincts that lie benieth the skin where the heart... Read morePublished on June 26, 2002 by Alexander S. Coen
There was a time in this country when self-made millionaires were almost given the status of diety, so great was the chasm between the moneyed classes and the common man circa... Read morePublished on November 19, 2000 by Luan Gaines
Peter Nichols debut novel showcases a real talent. The story combines a terrific sea story with taut adventure. Read morePublished on May 22, 2000 by John Prairie
I was rather dissapointed by this novel, most of the characters were unlikeable. The story line was fairly well drawn, but I found the character development was a bit abrupt. Read morePublished on March 11, 2000
A well written suspense filled tale that never stops and keeps surprising you! Deep personal studies in group dynamics and an ability to use just the right expression to paint a... Read morePublished on January 27, 2000