LAST MAN OFF by Matt Lewis

LAST MAN OFF

A True Story of Disaster and Survival on the Antarctic Seas
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A harrowing high-seas, high-stakes adventure where dread pools slowly like the first signs of seawater collecting on the deck of a cursed ship.

In 1998, Lewis was a fledgling marine biologist who counted himself lucky to have landed an observer post aboard an unassuming South African fishing vessel, the Sudur Havid. However, it didn't take long for that joy to dissipate. One look at the ugly boat and its suspect crew of mismatched characters took care of that. Nevertheless, like all great tragedies, the die had already been cast, and the author unwittingly, if somewhat fretfully, set sail into the icy waters off Antarctica. With a rich history of nautical sagas already firmly established, Lewis' careful setup can't help but harken back to classics like The Perfect Storm and maybe even Jaws as each new character is immediately sheathed in a dark pall of grim anticipation. Who will live, who will die, and who is to blame for it all? Lewis never tips his hand, although he does leave nasty clues from bow to stern that, in hindsight, clearly suggest disaster for the hapless Sudur Havid. The author is especially critical of the vessel's officers and their apparently loose relationship with proper oceangoing procedures. Given the chance, he probably would have welcomed the opportunity to safely jump ship. On the whole, the narrative is an emotionally charged and authentically frightening personal account of events leading up to, and immediately after, the ship’s tragic demise. Lewis is especially effective describing the rapidly deteriorating conditions aboard ship, in conjunction with the heightening terrors welling up inside his head. The only missteps occur when the author switches from his own point of view to the other battered psyches clinging to the Sudur Havid's sinking hulk in a way that could have only been accomplished through sober interviews conducted after the fact.

A darkly exhilarating memoir of tragedy at sea.

Pub Date: May 12th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-14-751534-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Plume
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2015




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