Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Listened to: "Sea Wolf" by Jack London

Listened to: Sea Wolf by Jack London, 1999 Blackstone Audio version downloaded from Overdrive.

Pretty decent but two of the main characters were really annoying at times. Part of the annoyance may have been the narration.

I've only read a few Jack London stories before, never a full novel. Humphrey "Sissy" van Wyden is on a ferry crossing San Fancisco Bay in a deep fog when his ferry and another ship collide and the ferry sinks. The tide carries a freezing van Wyden out to sea where he is picked up by the sealing ship, the Ghost.

The Ghost is captained by the amoral Wolf Larsen, a native Norwegian whose cruelty and disconcern for his crew is legendary among the sealing fleet. Rather than drop van Wyden off in San Francisco or pass him over to another ship Captain Larsen presses the bookish van Wyden into service as Cabin Boy.

Sea Wolf is part adventure novel and part philosophy discussion. Sissified van Wyden is a rich man's son who has avoided all physical labour. Under the control of the cruel ship's captain who was sent to at an early age van Wyden has to harden up physically and mentally to survive. Wolf and "Hump" discuss at length their competing philosophies on nature and life but - thankfully - those discussions are never boring.

It's only when the Ghost picks up the lifeboat of a sunken steamer and Ruth Webster is brought aboard that the annoyance begins. Wolf Larsen and van Wyden are both hot for Miss Webster and, since van Wyden is narrating, he has to ramble on about her beauty, and his love, and his suppressed desires. Blah Blah blah.

I wonder if I would have been as disgusted with van Wyden's gushing if I were reading the novel.

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