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4.2 out of 5 stars24
4.2 out of 5 stars
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This novel by William Hope Hodgson was first published in 1909. Hodgson was a prolific writer and this book was enjoyed at the time, although he did produce other tales that were considered superior.

The story is told as an account by our narrator who sets sail on a packet ship. As the voyage progresses strange things start to occur; shadows seen out of the corner of the eye, ropes coming loose, and then accidents, and fatality. A ship of ghostly appearance initially is seen by one sailor, and then more, as the crew realise that they are up against the ghosts of pirates.

Hodgson shows here his skill at maintaining a tight plot which is to some degree sparsely written, he also uses different dialects for crew members, but by not giving full graphic range to the ghosts he ramps up the tension and suspense. If you like a good ghost story, then this should be right up your street.
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on 28 November 2011
Definitely one of the best ghost stories I have every read, and I've read a few. Up there with M R James and Poe. The sparse writing style reads like a film, drawing you into the story. The author knows about life aboard ship and this adds to the authenticity and believability of the characters. A must read.
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VINE VOICEon 19 May 2014
This story takes the form of a sailor's account of an increasingly spooky voyage, around the end of the nineteeth century. On watch one night a boy thinks he sees a figure hiding in the shadows, and then our narrator himself glimpses an unnatural stranger crossing the deck. The incidents escalate in frequency and significance, horrifying in due course the entire crew.

Two of Hodgson's four novels eschew dialogue entirely, so it's surprising to find that this one is built around the worried conversations among the sailors, and that the author actually has a very good ear for this stuff. If anything, there is too MUCH naturalistic dialogue, as the repetitions and hesitations of the sailors occasionally hold back the story. Another cavil is that Hodgson's nautical experience leads him to include a great deal of ship-board detail, such as:

"It was much as I had supposed; the spectacle was all right, but the pin had gone out of the shackle, and the shackle itself was jammed into the sheavehole in the yard arm."

Although this stuff adds to the authentic seafaring flavour, Hodgson rarely 'throws any rope' to the reader, leaving this one sometimes a little 'at sea'...

However, Hodgson's disturbing and very original imaginings are at play and the gradually rising menace is very effective, though I found the climax just a little abrupt. (The epilogue, added for realism, is more of a nuisance than a boon.) In Hodgson's books, it is the lot of humanity to pit their resources against forces that can never be perfectly understood, and his refusal to dispel the mysteries he weaves leaves them haunting the reader's mind like ghosts on a ship...
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on 3 May 2011
This is from 1909 and is a tale of supernatural phenomena set aboard a sailing ship.Strange,shadowy figures are seen climbing aboard the "Mortzestus",a clipper in the vast Pacific.Inexplicable accidents,strange mist and fatal falls from the rigging unsettle the superstitious crew,who consider mutiny as the deaths mount.

This is from William Hope Hodgson the British writer of the wierd and horrific.One of the best "unknown"writers around.The tale is told by a traumatised sailor and clearly gets over a sense of slowly accumulating dread.The shadow men from the sea are terrifying creations,With Hodgson's descriptive restraint allowing the reader's own imagination to do the scaring.The highlights include frantic nighttime searches in the rigging for missing crewmen,while being attacked and pulled by half-seen hands.Hodgson always surprises and unsettles with his vast imagination,the mist or disturbance of the air which hides the ship from view is memorable.This curtain of mist sometimes opens a tiny bit allowing the men momentary views of other ships in the outside world which does much to confuse and add to the terror.

This is a cut above most scary fiction and shows off Hodgson's particular approach well.The title is bad though,it sounds like a pop-up children's book.Should have been called "The Mortzestus" or "The Shadow Men"

This strikes me as an ideal introduction to W.H.H.Also recommended are The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder (Wordsworth Mystery & Supernatural) and The Night Land
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on 26 October 2011
I read the other reviews and decided to give this book a try as it seemed to fit the kind of subject I'm interested in. Well I read it cover to cover in two sittings! I couldn't put it down. It's non stop from start to finish and kept me completely engrossed. The author, as mentioned before obviously has knowledge of this subject and a fantastic storytelling ability. Miss this one at your peril me hearty's!!!!!!
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on 22 April 2009
this has got to be the worlds greatest ghost story. you'll be hooked from page one. i read this first years ago and have been trying to get a copy ever since. my daughter saw it on my bookshelf, began reading and now cant put it down. any movie makers out there, THIS WOULD MAKE A GREAT FILM!
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Regarding the book itself, I needn't add much to what other reviewers have said; it's a cracking little nautical ghost story, much more readable than the same author's 'The House on the Borderland' or 'The Boats of the Glen Carrig', but it does tail off a bit towards the end. There are a lot of specialist nautical terms used but I managed to get the gist without resorting to a dictionary, and the attempts to render accent and dialect are less painful than in many other works (some by modern authors).

As regards the Kindle edition, it's pretty good. I found no typos or formatting problems except at the beginning, where there is a 'sea chantey' which is a bit garbled by the formatting; but you can skip that without losing anything, as the thing is irrelevant and in fact quite excruciating. And it's free, too!
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on 23 May 2012
Loved this book, it was a really pleasing read. It is a bit tricky to understand some of the nautical terms but that aside very enjoyable.
If you like ghost stories give it a go! Its a free classic so you really have nothing to loose.
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on 25 February 2013
This is a bit of a cross between a boys' own adventure story with lots of stiff upper lip and "jolly well pull yourself together" and a good old fashioned ghost story. In the end I felt the supernatural element won out as the atmosphere created by the mists, the mysterious shapes in the water and the grey men together with the contrast between the vast open space of the ocean and the claustrophobia of the ship as the men start to disappear really created a nice tense feel to the story. It was a but reminiscent of Stoker's Dracula in the Ship's log section of the story but a bit more developed with some pleasing characters and enough salty sea dogs to cheer any reader up. A good ripping yarn - free on kindle so don't miss out
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on 18 June 2011
Although the shocks and shivers are quite mild by today,s rathe gory standards,the very authentic maritme background to this tale and its cleverly claustrophobic atmosphere make it a good,late night read.
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