Ahab’s Return: or, The Last Voyage

Written by Jeffrey Ford
Review by Arleigh Ordoyne

This story meshes various characters from Herman Melville’s collected works into an adventurous, fast-paced Moby Dick continuation. Stunningly, Ahab has survived the disastrous final voyage of the Pequod and, after some delays, makes his way home. Dismayed to find his wife and son had moved to Manhattan after they heard of his “death” through Ishmael’s written account, he scrambles to find them. Enlisting the help of George Harrow, a serial writer for the penny press newspaper, The Gorgon’s Mirror, Ahab begins a new ill-fated journey that will bring him to battle yet another pale foe.

Melville fans will enjoy the inclusion of the short story character of Bartleby, the Scrivener—among other mentions from his works. Perhaps most curious is a manticore, which may have derived from a passage in Typee. Because of the plethora of literary nods, Melville readers will appreciate the tidbits the most; however, anyone interested in mid-19th century Manhattan will enjoy the historical references and detail. Ethnicity and race issues are a focal point, as well as the upcoming opium epidemic.

The character of Harrow is, without a doubt, the greatest asset of the writing—he is smart, self-deprecating, and wholly honest. Other characters are less believable, but as the story slips into a more mythological tale, all of the pieces fit together. One issue is the pace—there is non-stop action, and it can be dizzying for readers unaccustomed to thrillers. Overall, this is a fine tribute to Melville, given the canon-driven detail of the narrative and the care taken to respectfully further Ahab’s adventures.