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The Night Boat (1988)

The Night Boat (1988)

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3.56 of 5 Votes: 1
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187053221X (ISBN13: 9781870532211)

About book The Night Boat (1988)

The Night Boat is entertaining reading with a plot that seldom lags. However, it suffers from a linear plot and lack of character development.David Moore is developed adequately. We know his family drowned and he’s left New England and the banking system to operate a hotel in the Caribbean and forget his life. His backstory defines him and makes him a sympathetic character.He’s the only one who gets any meaningful development.Kip, the island constable, gets a little backstory. But he’s never made sympathetic. McCammon tries by revealing Kip’s fears and insecurities. That is usually a good device to develop a character. However, for Kip to be properly developed and emerge a true hero, he must offset those fears and insecurities with strong action. Kip ends up being a bystander to the climax. A romance between Moore and the marine archeologist would have provided more heft to the climax when the couple are in danger. Instead, David is purely hands off, preferring to remember his dead family. The relationship between the man and woman thrown into the danger of being attacked by zombies and then pursuing a zombie Nazi sub in a brewing hurricane should have been more than platonic.The man who emerges as the hero of the story – the old Carib – was a textbook example of ex deus machina. He did not emerge in the story until he was needed near the end. McCammon is a much better writer and that and could have come up with a way and reason for Kip or even Moore to emerge as the hero. Instead, McCammon invented a new character to serve as the tool of resolution.Most importantly, McCammon never really develops his zombies. We know they are intelligent since they are able to repair their sub. We know they are evil since they are driven to destroy ships and life. We know that they are terrifying because they dine on human flesh. But, given their intelligence, the reader deserves to know something behind their motivation. Such development would have augmented their evil and the terror they created. There was a like to like about this story. McCammon really shows his horror chops in writing gore. None of the gore of the zombie attacks is gratuitous and all serves to show the cold hearted viciousness of these monsters. While not quite splatterpunk, the horror scenes are quite graphic.McCammon develops his setting quite nicely. Most of us know the Caribbean islands as the tourist mecca with beautiful beaches and shops. McCammon reveals the real culture of the indigenous people of the Caribbean on an island where people work for a living. He develops their culture, their language and their superstitions to help drive his story.The Night Boat was indeed a book by a writer still honing his craft. The book that followed (in order of writing) Bethany’s Sin, was much better in exploring motivations and character development. When he got to his fourth book, he was willing to take on horror on a large scale in They Thirst. Despite being the work of a learning author, The Night Boat was fun. It was an original take on the zombie trope decades before zombies became the rage in horror. That alone would make it stand out if a more mature McCammon had written it today. The story works nicely and is an easy read. McCammon has never written a bad book. A couple like The Night Boat and Mystery Walk stand as average, but not bad. The Night Boat is not a bad book, but might be McCammon’s most average.

The Night Bat refers to a Nazi U-Boat that terrorized a small island near Jamaica. It would come in, destroy freighters, land based repair yards etc all in the name of war during WWII. In the prologue, the boat has just sunk a freighter when some sub chasers sneak up on the boat and it is forced into an emergency dive, leaving two crewmen outside. The ensuing battle "sinks" the U-Boat and covers it under a shelf of sand. Of the two crewmen topside, one dies that night, the other is captured by the Allies.Fast forward to present day (which in this case is around 1990 since the book is quite old). David Moore is going deep sea diving looking for wreckage exposed by a recent storm. He is rewarded with a find but discovers it is a depth charge and accidentally sets it off, loosening the sand and freeing the U-Boat, which corks to the surface.As it turns out, it is in immaculate shape and is towed into the boatyard on Coquina to await a decision. However, things start happening and deaths start to pile up. The remainder of the novel is the events happening over a weekend that puts at the center, David Moore, the constable known as Kip, a worker from the Jamaica heritage foundation flown in to look at the wreck and hopefully get a grant from the British museum known as Dr Jana Thornton, and the chief father of Caribville known as Cheyne. In various story threads they all fight against the undead crew of U-Boat 198 in an effort to save Coquina and tackle their own personal demons, of which all carry.This was a decently paced story considering all monster stories need to have a slowish buildup before the monster reveal. Of course these particular monsters were once people, and they are not indestructible. Indeed, the author does a good job of explaining how they could come to be, how they could cease to be, and how they can be killed failing the previous method. No spoilers here, though.I suppose the only thing that kept this from 5 stars was that it was rather short overall. Just 243 pages and that includes many blank pages due to new chapters. The penultimate battle also took place in 10 pages or less. And although I dont mind that there were no "where are they now" story threads, it did seem to end somewhat abruptly. In fact, the story overall seemed very cinematic, which to its credit made it enjoyable. One other tiny detail that did not quite do it for me was the lack of research in the accuracy of events surrounding U-198. With so many U-Boats made (over 1000), i was a little disappointed that the real U-198 did sink by subchasers but it was off the coast of the Seychelles and U-198 never had patrols in Caribbean waters. U-198 was also a Type IXD2 boat whereas the supposed expert in the book referred to it as a Type VIIc. But such is life and the internet was not the resource then as it is now. For the record, Wilhelm Korrin was not a real Kapitaen and especially not of the U-198.Subterranean Press 704/750

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The Night Boat was Robert R. McCammon’s third published novel, first appearing in 1980. Now Subterranean Press has brought it back as a (sold out) limited edition, and also made it available in e-book format for the first time. It betrays some of the faults of a then-new writer, but also has considerable power in its portrayal of Nazi submariners, as terrifying 35 years after the end of World War II as they were in the days when they lurked in the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean — if not more so.David Moore, the principal protagonist of the novel, lives on Coquina Island in the Carribbean Sea, where he owns a small hotel on the largely undeveloped island. He is a scuba diver as well, and, as the book opens, he is diving alone on the edge of a shelf, in an area known as the Abyss. He is curious and a bit acquisitive, having once discovered a brass compass in the deeps. This time, though, he discovers much more: a U-boat surfaces when he inadvertently sets off an unexploded depth charge.The boat seems to be a virtually unprecedented historical find, and a significant salvage discovery. Once the boat has been settled fairly securely in the island’s harbor, Moore returns with the island’s police constable, Kip, to explore the submarine’s interior. It’s a terrible experience for them, for the remains of the crew are still there, mummified. Worse, there is an atmosphere of evil in that submarine, a threatening, dark presence that almost seems as if the crew is still alive. They leave the boat in a rush when they see movement they can’t quite explain that they ultimately decide was caused by bad air leading to a sort of hallucination. But the boat leaves them both uneasy.And with good reason. The submariners appear to be Nazi villains and zombies all rolled up into figures of horror that the islanders have never seen and can barely comprehend. The local voodoo practitioner; the Carib Indians that dwell on the island; and Moore and Kip, fighting their logical, educated selves every step of the way, must work together to rid their home of this threat — and not just their home, for who knows what havoc a German U-boat could have on the local shipping lanes if they returned to battle, still living in a war the rest of the world left behind long ago?There are some problems with this novel. For instance, the viewpoint character shifts without warning from paragraph to paragraph. McCammon also occasionally relies on pure gore to make his point, when he is actually much better at frightening his reader through suggestion and oblique references to horrors that are far more terrifying when not gazed upon directly, but only hinted at.But despite these problems, The Night Boat is a fine piece of horror fiction in more ways than are immediately obvious, for the terrors visited upon the submariners are just as real, and just as well-portrayed, as are the terrors the submariners visit upon the islanders. The reader’s imagination cannot dwell comfortably for long on the idea that these men were somehow alive down there under tons of water and sediment for decades, any more than it can long think on the terrors the submariners visited upon others. It is easy to see how McCammon so quickly became established as one of the finer horror writers working in the 1980s.3.5 stars rounded up to 4. Orginally publisehd at
—Terry Weyna

I've watched a lot of zombie movies and read more than a few zombie-themed horror stories over the past ten years or so. Out of them all, only two really stand out. The first was the short story A Sad Last Love at the Diner of the Damned in Book of the Dead for a particularly gross paragraph that likened castration to opening an over-stuffed Zip-Lock bag of ravioli; the second was The Night Boat, which didn't have any single passage that was a visceral as that, but collectively was every bit as descriptive and terrifying. This book gave me nightmares, which is no easy task.If anyone has ever seen the old Peter Cushing movie about nazi zombies (or is it zombie nazis?), The Night Boat is going to be a turn-off at first glance; how many ways can you serve up undead fascists in the Bahamas? The biggest difference between the two - and the book's primary advantage over the movie - is the power of the reader's imagination to conjure-up a good scare and the author's ability to invoke it through building a sense of foreboding and dread with repetitive descriptions of mundane things. Early on in the book, before the zombies begin running amok, the author describes the sound of something heavy thudding dully against the interior of the recovered German U-Boat, over-and-over, from the point-of-view of several different characters. In an of itself there's nothing particularly scary about it, but given the reader's omniscience, it's very effective in evoking the image of cursed, undead sailors hammering futilely against the rusted metal walls of their maritime crypt.The ending was a bit of a disappointment, and without giving too much away all I will say is "Deus Ex Machina." It made sense in the overall context of the story, but given that the actors involved didn't really appear at any point earlier in the story, it didn't wrap things up neatly so much as just end them.Eh, no one is perfect.I give "The Night Boat" four gory stars out of five!

This isn't a bad horror novel, but it's a pretty forgettable one, which is probably why McCammon pulled it from circulation. I think that judgement a bit too severe, given it's genre writing in the first place (lighten up McCammon). But hey, it's his call. The book actually starts out well, with McCammon effectively mixing some exotic elements (Nazis, voodoo, zombies), into some decent dread. The problem is that once the zombies (or more appropriately, flesh eating mummies) show up, the wheels start to come off. Like so many horror novels of this period, there's a rush toward apocalypse, which, to my mind, often moved such novels out of the horror box and into some sort of sci-fi/fantasy/adventure zone. In any event, the sense of horror quickly evaporates, and you have an ending that borrows heavily on Moby Dick and Jaws. (The last 50 pages felt like a 100.) One of the major problems with the novel is that the main character, David Moore, is bland and uninteresting. McCammon attempts to make him a haunted and fated type, but as the novel draws to an end, you can't help but feel that most of the secondary characters are more interesting (and many of them ARE interesting). McCammon can write, and it's clear he did some research here (especially with U-boats). The dialogue (at least until the by-the-numbers ending), was also pretty good. Given that much of dialogue comes from Caribbean characters, that's no small feat (especially for a young writer). Recommended only for fans of 1980s horror (which I am), and McCammon completists. (Good cheesy cover art.) If you're just a casual reader of RM, his later books are better. 2 1/2 stars, which I'm rounding down since the author has such low regard for it. I think he's wrong, but whatever.Cover Art: 3 Stars.

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