Gregory Kirschling
May 14, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Outlaw Sea

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
William Langewiesche
genre
Nonfiction

We gave it a B

Langewiesche, an ”Atlantic Monthly” correspondent, might be the best investigative magazine journalist working today. Here, he outlines the ways in which the world’s oceans, crisscrossed by more than 40,000 merchant ships, are an anarchic wilderness ruled by piracy, disaster, and titanic emptiness. His writing is impossibly thorough and powerfully understated, especially in the book’s bravura middle section, where he reconstructs the 1994 sinking of the Estonia: ”The collective screams of the victims trapped below rose through the stairwells like a cacophony from hell, a protest that for those on the outside near the doors it drowned out even the roar of the storm.” But as in 2002’s ”American Ground,” adapted from articles about the World Trade Center reconstruction, the separate sections really don’t cohere as a book.

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