This is supposed to be Messner's big Fall number; if by ""big"" they mean ""long"", then it qualifies. Written by the author of Black Dawn, its style is pedestrian, its characters stereotyped. The story deals with American shipping and whaling in the early 19th century; its hero is Richard Loper, who stows away on a whaler at the age of tem, and although beaten, kicked and worked like a slave, loves it all because ""in his veins runs sea water, act blood"". First Mate at 14, Captain at 17, he eventually leaves the sea for the woman he loves and marries, and spends the rest of the book hankering after salt water with an interminable nostalgia. Though he becomes a famous ship designer, he is never really satisfied-and neither is the reader. Unlike other recent long historical novels, this has neither enough sex nor enough story to capture even the run-of-the-season rental market.