Okay so I’m going to be counter-intuitive and start this review in the reverse order to the title.
Wow. November was a complete whirlwind. I knocked over 55,ooo words of Pirates of Time, winning NaNo in the process, but there’s still so much more to go and I hope you’ll all keep up with me as the novel progresses. I’ll be posting regular updates here, on my Twitter, on my Facebook page, and on my Tumblr for those who follow me there at AdmiralCarter. Hope to see you there!
With Christmas on the horizon I’ve also been caught in a whirlwind of present-buying, and freaking out about money which is not a thing I have a lot of. I’m presently in the process of hunting for a job, which when I get will seriously hinder my writing time and general blogging time.
So anyway, that’s been me lately. I’ve just finished reading Thomas More’s Utopia, which I’ll detail in a future review.
For now, let’s stick to Melville and Moby Dick.
“There she blows!- There she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is Moby Dick!”
Rarely does one ever find a book in which the main character is a hunted albino sperm whale. Even rarer is it that one finds a book about whale hunting, especially in this day and age. Not so rare in the 19th Century, an age when whales were seen as the great leviathans of the deep; creatures to be feared and awed, and moreover defeated for their spermaceti, oil, bone, baleen, and flesh.
Moby Dick is, largely, a book about conquest, bravery, and a cautionary tale warning that those who seek to be gods will suffer the mightiest of falls when blind pursuit comes into play. Saying that, it’s also a book with an educational side to it. Not only does it teach readers about the whales themselves, but it also teaches about the history of whaling, and the history of society in relation to whaling. It’s a very interesting and comprehensive overview of the state of the times, and quite an illuminating one.
Our narrator – Ishmael – is a man who yearns to explore the oceans. Exploring the docks, he comes across the birthed whaling ship the Pequod, which is to become his home for the next few months. In securing passage for himself, he finds out that they are after another harpooner and Ishmael happens to know just the right person. Queequeg; a cannibalistic native from the islands who happens to have been in Nantucket at the right time. And who also happens to have befriended Ishmael in a strange twist of christian-meets-heathen.
It isn’t long before Ishmael discovers that Captain Ahab – the captain of the Pequod – has a vendetta to destroy Moby Dick for taking off his leg. The rest of the book is them chasing whales and killing them for their contents, and occasionally bumping into other whaling ships which are either full, looking for whales, looking for supplies, or looking for lost crewmen who have been taken overboard by whales or otherwise. Many of the people on the whaling ships, we discover, are in the business for the bravery that comes with having been a whaler or, even better, a harpooner. It’s considered a highly dangerous and even lethal occupation, and those who make it back alive – nevermind in one piece or not – are hailed as heroes.
It isn’t until the very last ten chapters that we begin to catch sight and hear word of Moby Dick itself. The whole 400 odd pages previous has extolled to readers the fierce, cunning, and bloodthirsty nature of this particular whale; so by now we hold high expectations for the battle ahead. And indeed these expectations are more than fulfilled; the Pequod sinks after being rammed by Moby Dick, and the whale itself takes Captain Ahab down with it amongst a set of tangled rope lines. He takes down his nemesis, but in doing so he also destroys himself, his crew, and the ship that he holds most dear.
For me, I found reading Moby Dick a literary and historical pleasure, and a realistic pain. I’ve always loved whales ever since I was a toddler and first saw models of them in the Queensland Museum gallery, and have even had the pleasure of encountering a few pods of Humpbacks up close. They are the most majestic, playful, gentle, and honourable creatures I have ever met, and the thought of killing them and finding glory in it was and still is completely repulsive to me. Whaling was the major cause for the near-extinction status of many species of whales around the world; in fact it did kill off some species. So reading Moby Dick was quite a saddening experience for me. This fact, and the novel’s sheer lengthiness and verbosity, were the only drawbacks for me. Overall, it’s a great novel and I seriously recommend you read it if you are at all interested in whaling or the history of said occupation, but also if you’re interested in sailing of the mid to late 1800’s. Its extremely descriptive, extremely detailed, and will challenge even the most dedicated of readers.
If you’re like me, and you like a good challenge, go get a copy of Moby Dick. If not, then try it anyway. You could learn something interesting, and you get bragging rights. Just, whatever you do, always remember to not be Ahab. Be Ishmael, the guy who lives to tell the tale of the madman captain and his lifelong quest for vengeance on a whale.
Now that NaNo is over, my updates will be more frequent.
Never stop reading, and until next time!