cover image Swell


Corwin Ericson. Dark Coast (IPS, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-0-9844288-4-7

This delightfully loopy debut combines Down East deadpan with elements of Nordic mythology and Pynchonesque pyrotechnics in following the misadventures of Orange Whippey on and around the North Atlantic island of Bismuth. Ericson's Maine coastal setting lies at the edge of the surreal, where whaling interests scheme to control a network of tech-savvy whales that could bring humanity closer together. Pursuing this literary McGuffin, Orange teams up with a pair of shadowy Koreans steeped in the lore of mythical whaling rivals. It's not plot that carries this novel but Ericson's funny if occasionally overstuffed prose. For instance, the origins of Estonindian "black metal dub" music are thusly explained: "If Francis Scott Key had been a ninth-century raider whose head was still throbbing and clanging from an ax-blow to the helmet, standing with one hand braced on the dragon prow of his longship watching his enemies' tarred warships burning in an uncanny blue bituminous haze, while unseen galley slaves chanting the stroke rumbled the ship from below, he may have closed his eyes, thought of Ragnarok, and composed an anthem like this." Lines like these and hilarious set pieces subjugate the narrative to the author's fanciful notions, resulting in a genial tale that meanders like an errant, stoned humpback. (Sept. 20)