Death to Moby Dick: A Love Story
by Stephen Melillo
Westwood Books Publishing

"‘My world was an island. That island is gone.’"

Isaac, a renowned naval architect, is a man whose one life goal is to bring death and destruction to the infamous white whale, Moby Dick. Tortured by traumas from his time as a POW of the Confederates during the American Civil War, Isaac seeks shelter from his demons by stepping up to become a leader of men against the whale. He advocates for the underrepresented but, haunted by the war, wonders if the Civil War truly settled any differences that divided young America. However, as Isaac progresses through his journey of self-awareness and explorations of his origins and existence, his desire to slay the whale grows uncontrollably. On a specially designed ship called the Seneca, Isaac and his crew pursue the whale. Their mantra becomes "Death to Moby Dick!" As their adventures unfold, their camaraderie binds them together, and Isaac becomes a timeless friend and leader. Meanwhile, the fate of the infamous white whale rests in the hands of the harpooners pursuing it.

Despite the violence that life has impressed upon him, Isaac becomes a symbol of peace in the book. His confusion about nineteenth-century society's focus and fixation on skin color—how it unites and divides individuals and entire societies—makes him a progressively natured character that modern readers will warm up to quickly. Throughout the book, the repetition of words like "white" and "whiteness" parallel Melville's own obsession with color, race, and existence. More noticeably, Isaac's progressive nature also facilitates the novel's structure. Part historical scrapbook, part detailed narrative, the book switches timeframes and even viewpoints. This switch places readers in Isaac's personal development as a human who recovers from war, challenges injustice, discovers romance, and overcomes loss. With its epistolary-style opening, this book grabs readers' attention so much that to the very last page they feel like a trusted confidante to whom a damaged man shares his deepest confessions.

Along with its subtle political and social commentary, this book develops a Melville-esque feel as it portrays humankind's balancing of good and evil. As Isaac's personal demons manifest and drive him to pursue Moby Dick, he encounters opposition from the men who will potentially serve as his crew. He states, "'You've said it yourselves. You called it a devil…. That's precisely what the white whale is, lads; a devil. I know. I was inside it before I was born.'" The sailors argue that hunting the white whale is an act of blasphemy. Their argument adds a spiritual element to the ever-present man-against-nature theme carried throughout the text, which further develops this book's Melville-esque tone.

Fans of the original Moby Dick will appreciate that this book maintains the "madness, the frenzy, the boiling blood and the smoking brow" adventure. Others will sense vibes from Island of the Blue Dolphins, particularly in Isaac's recollections of living on a forgotten island, surrounded by nature, and with his mother for most of his early, most formative years. With its survival-against-all-odds tone, other readers will gravitate to the book's explorations of race relations and war-induced politics and traumas. The romantic storyline will also satiate those craving a thrilling love story. In other words, this book has something for everyone.

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