4 out of 4 stars
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On a bitterly cold December morning in the Gulf of Alaska—on a Sunday at 4 a.m., the seas angry and rough—Captain Steve Procida wakes sharply to the blare of an alarm outside his cabin. His sleep has been fitful—he’s having that nightmare again about his son—but he knows exactly what the alarm signals. His container ship, the Seattle Express, has caught fire.
Thus begins a stirring, edge-of-your-seat adventure tale told from multiple points of view that follows the harrowing loss of the Seattle Express at sea and the race-against-time to locate the ship’s survivors before they meet a watery end out in the frigid North Pacific. To go more in detail would spoil the brilliant twists and turns the plot takes—to put it simply, this story doesn’t end the way you think it will!
Veteran seaman Charlie Sheldon’s Adrift starts off with a bang—quite literally—and never lets the reader off the hook until the last page. The author’s storytelling is masterful. He juggles the narratives of six distinct and well-developed characters with ease and weaves the few subplots together seamlessly into one cohesive and compelling story. He changes the point of view with each chapter but never in a way that makes the reader lose the flow of the story; the changes instead infuse a never-ending sense of urgency. He brings in a fascinating Native American cultural element as well, through two of the lead characters, which I also really enjoyed and thought made the story richer.
Despite the overall stellar quality of this book, there are a few minor issues I have with it that might just be personal opinions on my part but still bother me. Several side characters—in particular one lead’s ex-wife, the lawyers representing the power-hungry corporation that owns the Seattle Express, and also one religiously-oriented sailor—were written in what I felt was a stereotypical manner. This was not enough to significantly take away from the story for me, but it did make me raise an eyebrow and wish that more creativity was put into these characters’ development.
The one other issue I have is that while the author did a great job of making sure to tie up loose ends, I thought some of the subplots concluded a little too cleanly and a little too hastily. This felt somewhat unrealistic, but again, not in a way that significantly lessoned my enjoyment of the book.
Sheldon’s knowledge of the sea and of sailing is markedly evident, which makes Adrift even more of a thrilling and wonderful experience to read. Overall, I rate this book a well-deserved 4 out of 4 stars. The manuscript appears to be professionally edited, as I found very few errors. There is frequent swearing and one gory scene where a character suffers a grave injury, but otherwise the book is clean. The swearing makes sense given the rough background of many of the characters.
Anyone who enjoys a riveting adventure story that’s infused with a lot of heart and humanity—and plenty of sailors’ jargon and Native American lore—will enjoy Adrift. I know I loved this book immensely!
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