North is north and south is south in this 19th century sea story that contended for Britain's prestigious Booker Prize last year and came out in a U.S. paperback edition last month. The novel follows the voyage of the Sincerity, a smuggling vessel that takes on a party of highbrow landlubbers bound for the island of Tasmania. One of them, the Reverend Geoffrey Wilson, believes that the Garden of Eden is located on the island and seeks to prove this as part of a great effort to debunk modern scientific theories of geology and evolution. Also on board is Dr. Thomas Potter, another amateur philosopher with a strange pet theory. Potter is a systematic racist, out to classify and pigeonhole what he believes to be the world's inferior strains of humankind. These men have a terrible surprise in store for them. Tasmania's British colonists have been warring with the Aborigines, and the Sincerity is sailing unwittingly into the heart of darkness. The book is a thinking person's shipboard yarn, morally complex, stylistically inspired, yet rich in straightforward romance and adventure.
--By Walter Kirn