4 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Adrift by Charlie Sheldon was a dark but very good read. In the middle of winter near the Arctic Circle, a cargo ship fire starts and the captain decides to abandon ship. The crew manages to get in the lifeboats with seconds to spare, but the seas are huge, they are far away from the coast and just making it back to land without freezing to death first will take a near-miracle. Meanwhile, a small tug boat operation tries to beat corporate tugs to the punch and hopes to rescue the abandoned ship and claim the enormous rescue reward. One of the lifeboats makes it to the rugged, desolate, and freezing coast and its crew has to survive the freezing cold, rain, and snow with barely any food rations or equipment to build a shelter or hunt. Most of the characters are from native Pacific Coast tribes and a recurring theme of the book is tribal versus corporate interests and the native community in general.
What I liked most in this story was the humanity that shines through all the darkness. There is a backstory of shady corporate corruption that never gets resolved because it’s not the point of the story. That backdrop provides realism and tension to the story, but the real tension is in the fight for survival on one side, and the fight to save loved ones on the other. Sheldon makes all the characters feel real, likable or not, and expertly describes the vagaries and complexity of human relationships without ever being melodramatic. The feeling of community and support jumps off the page in most of the book and really makes this story shine.
I also liked that the author is involved with maritime and native conservation and weaves these themes so well into the story. There are many different viewpoints and the story switches back and forth between the cargo ship’s lost crew, the families back home and the rescue tug boat.
There really wasn’t much I didn’t like in this book. The only criticism I have is that the story took a bit too long to take off. The cargo ship fire happens right at the beginning, but then a lot of time is spent building up tension between the rescue tug and the shady maritime corporation that also wants mining permits on sacred native lands. In the end, not much comes out of the Evil Corporation arc and the story’s focus is survival and grit in the face of deadly odds. I think this makes for a much more interesting and gripping story, but a couple of chapters setting up the shady company could have been a bit shorter.
All in all, this was a great survival story with Pacific Northwest tribal issues weaved in. I was impressed with the nautical descriptions and the overarching sense of community. The editing was very good and there are only a few instances of profanity and no sexual content. Anybody into survival, the high seas, and respecting nature will love this. I did and I look forward to reading more by Charlie Sheldon. For these reasons, I rate this a 4 out of 4 stars.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon