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The Last Ship

Written By:William Brinkley - 1987

  • The Last Ship  - William Brinkley cover

    Ballantine - 14th Printing

  • The Last Ship  - William Brinkley cover

    Viking - 1988


Ballantine - 14th Printing

The unimaginable horror of total nuclear war has been let loose upon the world. Miraculously, a single ship—the guided missile destroyer Nathan James—has survived the nightmare of destruction. This astonishing, superbly written novel is the story of that ship, the 152 men and 26 women aboard her, their search for survival—and the fate of mankind.

William Brinkley brilliantly takes the grand themes of seafaring fiction—the mysterious sawy of the sea over human nature, the tensions and bonds of the shipboard community, the moral crisis of war at sea—and launches them into the uncharted waters of the post-holocaust world. The captain of the Nathan James narrates the electrifying story of his crew's voyage through the hell of nuclear winter, past the blighted shores of Europe and Africa, their survival of mutiny and their puzzling encounter with a Russian submarine.

But it is when the ship makes land on an uncontaminated paradise island that the captain confronts the most urgent and difficult question: How can the men and greatly outnumbered women of his crew find a way to perpetuate the human race?

Viking - 1988

As William Brinkley's extraordinary novel opens, the destroyer Nathan James stands at only a third of her original strength, twelve of her nuclear missile cells are empty, and the ship is sailing in the loneliest waters imaginable, seeking refuge from apocalypse. Almost past hope, the surviving crew, including twenty-six women, turn towards a tiny island of verdant land in the South Pacific.

The captain recounts the ship's own role in the shock of the nuclear holocaust, and her harrowing journy through a world in ruins: a dead city of London on the Thames, Mediterranean encounters with a ravaged population fleeing the land's contamination, the poisonous savagery of nuclear winter attacking the ship and her company in equatorial waters. On the ship itself, the need to retain some semblance of stability and sanity is constantly challenged by uncontrollable events: a baffling radio signal from home that makes the crew yearn, against all reason, to return there; a mutiny led by the ship's missile officer; a confrontation with the Russian submarine Pushkin, raising the fateful question of whether the American and Russian seamen should join as one community, together to start the world over. As the ship's company turns to the land, it must face the most crucial consideration of all: the women, greatly outnumbered by the men, and the extremely precarious arrangement that must be made with them, not only for safety's sake—lest the community be torn apart by sexual conflict—but for the sake of human hope.


Ballantine - 14th Printing

"Nevil Shute wrote a moving book, On the Beach, about the aftermath of a nuclear war... Now William Brinkley has used the same premise to tell an even more fascinating tale." —Vermont Royster, The Wall Street Journal

"An extraordinary novel of men at war, a superb portrait of naval command, The Last Ship is a powerful and exciting novel you will not want to miss." —Anthony Hyde, author of The Red Fox, The Washington Post

"Beautifully written... as if the narrator has set himself the task of preserving the language, of writing it down lest it be lost forever... Brinkley's plot contains a series of unexpected reversals and the tale's conclusion is unforgettably intense... The Last Ship is a magnificent book." —John R. Alden, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"William Brinkley writes in expert detail about life on the sea... Readers will be engaged by this ambitious tale, which draws on the legacies of Melville and Conrad but is full of its own nuclear-age quandaries and horrors." —Andrew Postman, The New York Times Book Review

"Brinkley's tale has humanity, thoughtfulness and one inspired complication: women." —Donald Morrison, Time

"A combination of On the Beach, Lord of the Flies, Swiss Family Robinson and Bible in which the doom of Revelation precedes the promise of Genesis." —Harry Levins, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"With a spare, introspective monologue and minimum of showy devices, The Last Ship achieves a gentle sort of horror climaxed in one of the most hair-raising scenes in any novel: the voyage up the Thames into the shrouded poison of bombed London." —Chuck Moss, Los Angeles Daily News

"A fat-novel, stay-up-all-night, can't-turn-the-pages-fast-enough kind of yarn." —Anthony Olcott, Chicago Tribune

"A completely engrossing modern sea tale... Brinkley weaves a yarn worthy of Melville of Conrad... But anyone serious about modern fiction will doubtlessly discover in The Last Ship a haunting tale of the sea, a grotesque warning about man's stupidity and a wonderful array of well-drawn and developed characters in a novel that is as rewarding to complete as it is a pleasure to read." —Clay Reynolds, Dallas Morning News

"Extraordinary... Here is a true classic in the old-new literature of survival." —Burke Wilkinson, The Christain Science Monitor

"Earns superlatives... vivid... [It] reminds me of Moby Dick in its feel for the sea, its passages of absolutely lyrical beauty, its deep (but not heavy) seriousness and its narrator's continuing reflections and brooding concern, his love for his ship and crew." —Frank De Marco, The Virginian-Pilot and the Ledger-Star

Viking - 1988

Throughout this fascinating narrative runs the captain's tense struggle, brilliantly portrayed, often with great drama, to command his ship under circumstances never before encountered and pressures that are nearly unbearable. Above all, it is a story of surpassing valor, of American sailors—men and women—summoning their last remnants of mental and emotional strength in a battle against the forces that threaten to take them under. As the novel builds to an unforeseeable and shattering climax, the reader, made to feel deeply the gallant struggles of heart and mind against depair, will experience The Last Ship as an unforgettable, and profoundly human, literary achievement in the grand tradition of seafaring fiction.