4 out of 4 stars
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Adrift by Charlie Sheldon is a thrilling adventure of smaller intertwined stories all centered about a ship that has been abandoned at sea. Featuring both a diverse cast and diverse settings, Sheldon sweeps us into a story of survival and hope.
Instantly, Adrift is a gripping story. It throws the reader into the action and makes them want to turn the page from the fire at the very beginning to the resolution of all the individual, minor plots.
The writing style is matter-of-fact. There is no purple or flowery prose. For example, when Travis washes his hands, it is described as "it stung." Or, when Louise tries to confront Larry and he simply goes back to sleep, the chapter ends with, "Where is a knife?" There's a subtle humor to this style, as well as being striking when it needs to be.
Charlie Sheldon is skilled at building suspense. As each chapter is told from or about a central character, he keeps the reader engaged with both the happenings of those characters and the overall plot. The book does switch occasionally from first-person to third-person without rhyme or reason, but it is hardly noticeable. Each character has an individual voice, making clear whose perspective we are reading at any given point. The chapters also help with this by giving us the name at the beginning.
All the characters are real and three-dimensional. All of them are dynamic and complex. Their conflicts and personality help make them individual and memorable, from the main characters such as William or Pete, to the more minor characters like Sarah or Heather.
It is the way Sheldon weaves all these characters and their stories together that made me fall in love with the book. The book is crafted like a Monet painting. Up close, there's these striking and intriguing individual pieces that kind of go together. Step back, though, and you see the picture as a whole. This is one of the main reasons I rate this book four out of four stars.
Sheldon builds settings as well as he does characters. From the tribes to the lifeboats, to Buckhorn's construction site, to Haida Gwaii, this author makes you feel as if you are there, not only amidst the action of the plot or the fear and desperation of the characters, but feeling the freezing cold and smelling the stink of the life boats or the loudness and bustle of Buckhorn's site.
One of the ways he builds the characters, settings, and scenes so well is through the sailor's vernacular. It made the story feel more real and authentic. At first, it isn't always understandable, but when the reader gets going, it becomes much easier to comprehend. I could see other readers I know struggling with this, but I am a fan of it.
One thing I am not a fan of, though, is at the very beginning when abandoning ship. There are a lot of names and positions thrown at the reader. To be in the beginning, makes it more confusing and harder to keep track of everyone. It also comes across as unnecessary because names and positions are repeated later when the characters become more defined.
The book was extremely well edited and formatted. I noticed only one very minor mistake that in no way impedes reading or enjoyment.
I would greatly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of survival stories. Those who have an interest in sailing would probably enjoy the terminology and mechanics discussed. Also, readers who enjoy big casts with smaller, individual plots that tie together into an overall plot, like Game of Thrones without the fantasy, will like this book.
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