Reviews > Published on March 18th, 2016

Bookshots: ‘The North Water’ by Ian McGuire

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


The North Water

Who Wrote It?

What Moby Dick would have been like if Herman Melville grew up drowning in horror movies.

Ian McGuire

Plot in a Box:

A 19th-century whaling ship called The Volunteer sets sail for the Arctic with a killer onboard.

Invent a New Title For This Book:

The Volunteers

Read This if You Like(d):

The Hateful Eight, Moby Dick, The Revenant

Meet the Lead(s):

Patrick Sumner - the hired surgeon aboard The Volunteer. What seems like an easy gig quickly turns into a perpetual nightmare fueled by one unfortunate event after the next.

Henry Drax - a harpooner aboard The Volunteer with an itch to kill. He is a complete savage, ugly to the core.

Said Lead(s) Would Be Portrayed in a Movie By:

For Sumner, I'd have to go with Jake Gyllenhaal, and for Drax I don't think we could go wrong with Joe Anderson.

Setting: Would You Want to Live There?

I barely know how to swim, so that’s a big fat nope. Plus I've lived in Texas too long to know how to cope with actual cold weather. I'd die immediately.

Favorite Sentence?

The light is what we truly are, that is our immortal essence. But only when the flesh falls away can the truth shine through.

The Verdict:

I started off hating this book. If not for the fact that I was supposed to be reviewing this for LitReactor, I would have probably stopped reading after the first chapter, which included in quite graphic detail a man beating a small boy and raping his unconscious body. But I kept reading it, and I didn’t hate the book as much as I expected after the ugly opener. This is a book full of very disgusting, evil men. Men who maybe aren’t as developed as I’d like, but men nonetheless. It’s okay to hate a book’s characters, but it’s not okay not to care about them at all. The North Water struggles with a cast of characters who aren't all fully fleshed out.

This book is gruesome, but also intelligent. It's a literary horror novel with a punch. Imagine if Eli Roth directed an adaptation of Moby Dick. Okay, that sounds terrible. Don’t imagine that. Instead, ponder what Moby Dick would have been like if Herman Melville grew up drowning in horror movies, and maybe you’ll start understanding what this book has for you. This thing is intense as hell with some moves you won’t see coming.

About the author

Max Booth III is the CEO of Ghoulish Books, the host of the GHOULISH and Dog Ears podcasts, the co-founder of the Ghoulish Book Festival, and the author of several spooky books, including Abnormal Statistics, Maggots Screaming!, Touch the Night, and others. He wrote both the novella and film versions of We Need to Do Something, which was released by IFC Midnight in 2021 and can currently be streamed on Hulu. He was raised in Northwest Indiana and now lives in San Antonio.

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