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
From Publishers Weekly
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