cover image 2182 kHz

2182 kHz

David Masiel, . . Random, $22.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-375-50606-2

In first-time novelist Masiel's gripping, darkly humorous arctic adventure story, Henry Seine is a stubborn seaman plagued by bad luck. In 1989, after his wife sends him a slew of Dear John letters, he takes a job on board a tugboat headed down the Alaska coast. Captained by a madman, the tug goes down, but Seine is miraculously deposited on dry ground after being rescued by the alluring seawoman Julia Lew. Still haunted by the ghosts of the crew and his by now ex-wife, Seine once again chooses the drifting, chaotic life aboard an icebound vessel, persuading his captain and fellow crew members to undertake a bold and dangerous journey to the frigid farthest north in search of stranded scientist Louis Moneymaker. Not surprisingly, this doomed attempt at redemption brings Seine and company once more into precarious circumstances. Masiel's secondary characters possess the same willfulness and sharp sense of humor as Seine himself—necessary traits, since they keep the men alive and the reader entertained. There is the Chemist, "a punk rock towboater careening through a mad ocean"; Big Man, a huge Ukrainian; the barbaric Buff, half-Irish, half-Eskimo; and the Wolf, a noseless veteran seaman. Chewing tobacco, swigging Listerine, detailing their bodily functions and generally sparing no one's sentiments, they are a rough and ready lot. Masiel's descriptions of life and work aboard a host of specialized vessels are copiously detailed, and the grim, icy, grease-monkey settings perfectly complement Seine's descent into a physical—and emotional—abyss. Much grittier and less glamorous than the usual adventure story, Masiel's debut is an arduous but rewarding read. 3-city author tour. (Mar. 19)

Forecast:Even Krakauer and Junger fans may find this strong stuff. Masiel's ideal reader is a cross between the gross-out enthusiast and literary buff.