In 1838 the Southern Cross was reputed to be the fastest merchant ship out of New York. Now the owner demands that she break all records on the perilous China run to Canton. His ambition was rivalled only by her new captain, on his first voyage as master of a ship, young Samuel Wilson. And prove himself- and his ship- he did- against gales, reefs, calms, pirates, the sinister but bumbling machinations of the English opium traders and the corrupt officialdom of the Chinese Empire. From this angle it provides interesting parallels to Mona Gardner's Hongkong (see p. 867). But then it angles off into the account of Wilson's enforced stay in Canton, with explicit sex scenes and the exotic color of the Orient. Unfortunately, the author makes his characters from cabin boy to captain as wooden as the ships they sail, and the Southern Cross wallows in the wake of its more skillful predecessors.