A disabled cruise ship, packed with refugees and fleeing a tsunami, finds anything but smooth sailing in Sachs’ thriller.
The Festival, a New York City–docked passenger liner, is repurposed as a rescue vessel after an earthquake unleashes “major tsunami waves.” Several countries in South America, as well as the Florida Keys and its southern panhandle, have been flooded, and the Big Apple is forecast to be next. In the ensuing panic, Travis Cooke, a paramedic, manages to make it onboard the Festival with his son, his ex-wife, and her new husband. Order aboard the ship inexorably breaks down, though, after cellphone communication is cut off and the ship is attacked by escaped convicts who’ve taken over a Navy vessel: “You think you have a handle on the things that can kill you,” one passenger wryly remarks. “I certainly didn’t bet on the tsunami-pirate double.” Sachs’ debut novel is an unremittingly grim disaster adventure that’s part Ship of Fools (1965) and part Lord of the Flies (1954)—and all too briefly, part Die Hard (1988), when another passenger, professional wrestler Mighty Lee Golding, takes on a couple of the marauders. (As the story unfolds, he lives up to his reputation as wrestling’s “most-hated bad guy.”) Sachs keeps the story moving full-steam-ahead, balancing his fleshed-out portraits of memorable characters with visceral action scenes. Meanwhile, its shattering worldview is best summed up by this bleak dialogue exchange: “Life is horrible.…It’s what we made.” The author renders the Festival itself so vividly that the doomed ship becomes another character in the story. There are minor typographical errors (“though” instead of “thought”) and a tendency to fleetingly drift into extraneous description; one chaotic scene, for example, unnecessarily describes the bar on which a man is standing. However, these flaws aren’t enough to sink the proceedings.
An engaging and ultimately devastating disaster novel.