Arias, a reporter for People magazine, mixes suspense with soap in this melodramatic tale of five Costa Rican fishermen who one day embarked on a routine fishing trip--but hooked more than they expected: 142 days adrift in the Pacific, establishing a new record for survival on the open seas. As if scripting a movie-of-the-week, Arias crosscuts between the survial narrative of the Cairo III and the anguished rescue efforts of the fishermen's families back on land. The technique doesn't really work: the appeal of this tale lies in the gritty, gripping adventures of the Cairo's five-man crew, faced with almost certain death after a freak storm ravages their ship, and the hand-wringing of relatives for the most part just clogs up the works. Nonetheless, there's enough sea-action here to please both salts and stay-at-homes. We have a ship without weather maps or charts, and with a radio on the blink. We have ferocious squalls, shark attacks, terrible thirst, a curious whale, a desperate crew. We have five ordinary men struggling to survive on the few birds and fish they snare, and discovering their raw lust for life in the process (""l became like a dog. I'd eat anything. I wouldn't even smell it. Whatever it was, I'd get it down,"" recalls the captain). And we have a happy ending, as a Japanese tuna-fishing boat comes across the Cairo and its suffering crew 550 miles southeast of Honolulu--4500 miles from home. Not in the same ballpark--not even in the same league--as Piers Paul Read's classic Alive, but the inherent appeal of any tale of survival against extraordinary odds is enough to make this a page-turner.