Email this review


 A Canadian ocean liner becomes an island of safety during the earthquake that destroyed Yokohama in 1923. Former Yachting editor/nautical writer Robinson's first novel is based on actual events. Modeled after the author's real-life uncle, Captain Samuel Applebye is the calm eye of the storm in Yokohama Bay when the city is hit by an earthquake and subsequently ravaged by fire. Trapped pierside, Applebye's ship, the Oriental Monarch, fully provisioned for a Pacific crossing, becomes a refuge for the crowd that had assembled to wave off the departing passengers. Applebye takes on as many survivors as he can before the firestorm reaches the waterfront and threatens the ship. Using his formidable ship- handling skills, the captain muscles the liner away from the pier without the assistance of tugs, but the maneuver ties the Oriental Monarch to the freighter astern. Fires continue to threaten the coupled ships as pipelines spew fuels onto the waters of the bay and the closest help, a naval destroyer, is hours away. The captain also has other worries: His Swedish mistress, a miraculous survivor of the quake, is aboard with a compound fracture; radio communications have broken down; and the creepy functionary who's on the ship to evaluate the captain's performance for the owners prior to his promotion, is not pleased with Applebye's priority to save souls before ships. Playing minor roles are a tippling young ship's doctor, a rather cowardly officer, the captain's heroic steward, a fading movie star, and a couple of orphans. An old-fashioned story of modest heroics told in an old- fashioned Nevil Shute style that suits it perfectly.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1992
ISBN: 0-924486-21-X
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1992