Book tip: Ian McGuire's "The North Water" is a vile, dark masterpiece

Book tip

The North Water, Ian McGuire

Here's how I see the thought process evolving as British author Ian McGuire wrote his 2016 novel "The North Water," which was long-listed for a Booker Prize and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Book Award. "Let's see," McGuire mused, "I'll see your 'Moby Dick,' Melville, and I'll raise you a Jack London's 'Sea Wolf' and Cormack McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian,' and I'll use James Lee Burke's darkly gorgeous prose to describe unspeakable atrocities." Fabulous! Our (sorta) hero onboard a 19th-century whaling ship is Sumner, a disgraced, opium-addicted former army surgeon, and the chief nemesis is the harpooner Drax, whose status as Evil Incarnate is established in a revolting opening scene involving a male child prostitute. Sound quease-inducing? You've no idea. But there is much greatness here. If you start it, you won't stop — even though you probably won't see the world again in the same light. Thanks a helluva lot, Ian! I love you, you spooky genius!

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