Book Review: The Aleutian Voyage
Reviewed by Madeline Barbush
An exhilarating and fantastical tale of exploring new land and all it has to offer…or take away
Set in 1866, The Aleutian Voyage…Hang on! follows field director Jack Calsin on a treacherous journey from Washington, D.C. to the territory of Alaska. Watch out for when we get off of that naval ship and onto unfamiliar land. The novel takes off and Marich’s imaginative storytelling shines.
Marich knows how to balance a grounded, historical story with adventure and fantasy, and he does so in just 80-some pages. Although a quick read, it is one that will take you to far-off places with a character who is resilient and worthy.
The Civil War has ended, Lincoln has been assassinated, and Jack Calsin is back from doing his surveying of mineral resources in the Great Lakes Region.
Jack has no idea why he is summoned to the White House, but now that he is back, his exploratory nature leads him to accept the invite. He learns that the new President Andrew Johnson wants to improve his standing with the public and congress so he is planning on purchasing Alaska from the Russians for the large deposits of gold and silver that are said to be there.
The president picked expert Jack Calsin to survey the land for its mineral properties. While Calsin knows that the journey aboard the USS Hercules to Alaska will be dangerous and lengthy, he has no idea that the crew will be made of Union veterans upset with President Johnson, and critical of this very mission. The tension between the men is just the tipping point, and Calsin soon finds himself in the middle of many precarious situations on and off the ship.
Marich’s story is timely. While many Americans today are wary of the exploration of new lunar territory instead of tending to our planet Earth, there are those in the novel, like Dr. Cole, the surgeon on the USS Hercules, who believe that the Department of Interior should take care of the troubles in the Union instead of looking to own the new land and people of Alaska.
Marich sets a strong political backdrop without making the story and its characters only about politics. Jack Calsin is seemingly apolitical, which for better or worse keeps him going further on his journey without much concern for what it means for the US, but rather concerned for what new discoveries lie ahead. It seems to be Marich’s intention to leave the main character impartial so as to leave room for interpretation, but at times it seems that Jack Calsin is more so aloof than simply unbiased.
The novel is practically split in two: half on board the ship, half on land. Although there are many tragedies that strike the men at sea, there is little to actually explore within each of them. Disease and death threaten them, but at times it can feel like we are waiting around to get to the adventure. Jack Calsin himself is eager to get off the ship and onshore.
Marich does not disappoint, however, when the men do land. I’d recommend The Aleutian Voyage for all of the strengths of the second half. Calsin finds much more in Alaska than just minerals, and all of the twists and turns are exhilarating to experience. Although Marich reveals much, there is still so much mystery left to explore.
Marich sets himself up for a successful second part of his trilogy. I look forward to finding out what Calsin will come across next.
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Adventure
Print Length: 107 pages
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