four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
21-Mar-Apr-2006
By: 
David Masiel
user_rating: 
0

A-TheWesternLimitOfTheWorldCommanded by World War II vet Harold Snow and first mate Charlie Bracelin, the dilapidated, toxic tanker Tarshish is on its way to broker a risky black-market deal. Also on board is Elisabeth, a beautiful half-English, half-Liberian crewmate who has captured every male heart on board—including Snow’s. The arrival of a new crewman, Snow’s oldest friend’s grandson, complicates this arrangement. Then the Tarshish is refused entry into San Francisco Bay. As the crew becomes more and more mutinous, the tanker must reinvent its identity—and its course—to realize its mission.
Random House. 304 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1400061628

Ft. Worth Star Telegraph 4 of 5 Stars
"This is still a gripping, suspenseful tale crammed with betrayals, love of both the reunited and unrequited varieties, shadowy and haunting pasts, and chilling natural disasters. The Western Limit of the World confirms Masiel’s growing reputation as a top-rank writer." Tasca Robinson

San Diego Union-Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"David Masiel has produced a sea adventure for the 21st century that can stand next to the work of any such novel from the 19th or 20th (Herman Melville’s incomparable whale hunt excepted). … On the face of it a man’s book, this is better described as an adult book, and its leading lady is, among other things, a no-nonsense feminist." James Leigh

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Bracelin is a near-monstrous figure, a grotesquely drawn, fully tattooed and psychologically convincing rogue who would serve well in a Cormac McCarthy novel, with his most obvious marking being the analemma on the inside of his left forearm. … The prose never rests as the story surges toward its unpredictable conclusion, giving us, in its best moments, a mix of emotional disquiet and fluid sense of action." Alan Cheuse

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"So, we have action-adventure (the welding scenes alone, as the chemical tanks keep springing leaks, are nightmare tense). We have greed and conscience and sexual opportunism doing battle. … By novel’s end, we’ve also been given the full measure of a flawed, criminal man coming up against the ‘real limit’ of his life." Michael Upchurch

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"This high-seas adventure is a bracing plunge into cold salt water for anyone who thinks literary fiction has grown too precious and effete. … But if all that testosterone propels the story forward, what gives it ballast is Snow’s character." Ron Charles

Critical Summary

Masiel spent a decade as a merchant seaman and knows this watery turf well. Though reviewers still cite Melville as king of high-seas drama, they agree that Masiel follows closely on his heels. Written in magical prose and full of greed, sexual tension, adventure, death, and natural disasters, Western Limit delves deeply into the tortured hearts of humankind. Snow, who takes center stage, is a haunted man in search of absolution; Bracelin, by contrast, acts on his monstrous yearnings. For sea-faring fans, Western Limit is a must read.

Also by the Author

2182 Kilohertz (2002): Henry Seine spends his days and nights aboard a tug hauling cargo along the frozen arctic coast. When he’s not high or mind-numbingly cold, he monitors 2182 kHz, the international distress channel. Perhaps someone somewhere needs saving? When a call finally comes through, Harry brings together a ragtag crew to mount a rescue mission.