cover image THE OUTLAW SEA: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime

THE OUTLAW SEA: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime

William Langewiesche, , read by the author. . Audio Renaissance, $29.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-59397-436-7

The sea's unpredictability and savage indifference to the things it touches are the defining themes of Langewiesche's well-researched book, which sadly does not fare well in audio. Beginning with an exploration of the open nature of the waterways—a world where standards are ill-defined, rules inconsistent and laws difficult to enforce—the book alternates from historical background to compellingly written narratives of the ugly things that can happen on the water, from piracy to shipwreck. But Langewiesche's presentation is monotonous, and his delivery is more befitting a dry scholarly journal than such a vivid and emotional story. The climax of the book comes fairly late, when Langewiesche describes the 1994 Estonia disaster, which claimed 850 lives, and then follows it up with other examples of how greed at sea (too many passengers, too much cargo, or both) has led to tragedy. Even here, Langewiesche's voice lacks emotion; indeed, it sounds as if the material doesn't interest him. Langewiesche (American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center ) has written an eloquent and powerful book, but you wouldn't know it from hearing him read it. Simultaneous release with the FSG hardcover (Forecasts, Mar. 29). (May)