Friday, December 21, 2012
The Night Boat by Robert R. McCammon (1980)
The Night Boat by Robert R. McCammon (1980): This enjoyable, overstuffed, pulpy as all get-out early novel from McCammon gives us a World War Two U-Boat filled with undead Nazis terrifying a Caribbean Island in the late 1970's after the explosion of an old depth charge releases the U-Boat from its burial beneath tons of sand on the ocean floor.
One of McCammon's strengths throughout his career has been the density of his inventiveness in his novels -- stuff just keeps on happening even when it doesn't necessarily build from anything or to anything. Here, that density gives us three Ahabs in search of their great black-hulled Nazi whale, one of them suddenly appearing with about 60 pages to go. It also gives us a former Nazi Ishmael who shows up and then has almost nothing to do. Was this novel edited down from a much longer manuscript? I wonder.
Anyway, an expariate American scuba diver with a tragic past which will, of course, become a vital part of the story's machinery is compelled to unearth the submarine that's lain on the sea floor since 1942. It's the same sub that shelled the small Caribbean island of Coquina during World War Two before being sent to its apparent death by several sub-chasers and a lot of depth charges. But rise it does, to the astonishment of all, whereupon it drifts into the harbour and gets stuck on a reef. So the good people of Coquina elect to tow it into an abandoned military dock despite the fact that the sub managed to kill one fisherman during its trek into the harbour.
And from within the decades-sealed submarine...is that the sound of someone pounding with a hammer? Well, let's open it up and find out!
Did I mention that Voodoo plays a role as well? Of course it does. And undead zombie Nazis with an unquenchable thirst for blood and the ability to use tools. They can smash you with a hammer or fix a submarine. These are not your garden-variety stupid zombies. They have an ethos, and it's called National Socialism!
All in all, The Night Boat is a wild romp that pays off on enough plot threads to be pretty thoroughly enjoyable. McCammon would write much better novels, but no more enjoyable ones on the basic level of pulp melodrama. Recommended.