The plot of this amazing book, in a nutshell, is that in a post-apocalyptic future a psychopathic alcoholic who suffers from twisted sexual fantasies is the captain of a haunted boat filled that is filled with the ghosts of dead slaves while searching for answers as to why the world has gone mad. On his ship, the Neptune, he has his crew: Grace, the Tasmanian devil, and her twelve offspring. This is a hero’s quest, but without a hero. Just a broken shell of a man who is lost at sea and trying to keep his demons at bay through drinking and self-flagellation. The sad man with haunted eyes traverses the remains of a world gone mad with the singular thought that he can fix things if he just finds someone called The Oracle.
Yes, this story is as bizarre as it sounds.
And yet this book is about so much more than all of that. Without going into spoilers, I’m going to give some of my thoughts on this amazing read.
This is an odyssey, a religious allegory, a psychological horror story, an existentialist drama, and at it’s heart a love story.
The description of the titular character being a rapist will turn the majority of readers off, thinking this to be a cheap exploitation novel, and I think Mr. Grant is smart enough to realize this fact. He has deliberately crafted an odious lead character that only the more adventurous readers will invite in. I downloaded this as a freebie on my Kindle a couple months ago and doubted I’d ever read it but something behind the audaciousness of having a lunatic as it’s protagonist struck me as funny so I decided to give a whirl last week. I finished the book a few hours ago and I don’t think I’ll be able to shake it anytime soon.
You don’t read a book with such bleak subject matter looking to be uplifted and when you find yourself giddy, soaring with hope for redemption of this character, it’s a very perplexing moment. Grant uses his character of the Mariner as a stand-in for all males, and the darkness that lies within us, but without focusing only on the darkness itself. There are brilliant glimmers of hope that illuminate the fact that even the worst of us have something worthy of loving or living for.
There will be points in which you will not want to read anymore. A little half-way over through the novel some really disturbing content had me contemplating as to if I wanted to continue my voyage with The Mariner. I decided that I might as well see what happens since I spent so much time with it already and for my persistence I was greatly rewarded with what I feel is an instant classic.
Of all the books I’ve ever read, very few have left me feeling as though I were a better person for having done so. The Mariner is one of the few to fall in that category.
I really hope this book does well because Ade Grant is a brave new voice in experimental horror fiction and it will be very interesting to see what he writes next.