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December 3, 1998
Once More Into the Breech
Bill Walker's novel takes us aboard a new RMS Titanic
By JIM SADUR
By Bill Walker.
232 pp. Baltimore:
Cemetary Dance Publications. $24.95.
The Titanic phenomenon has inspired imaginations for almost ninety years. Every generation has been treated to events that rekindle interest in that most singular of shipwrecks, the RMS Titanic. Walter Lord's "A Night to Remember" in 1955, Robert Ballard's discovery in 1985 and most recently James Cameron's epic film "Titanic" have all caused a social recollection of Titanic. Her tragic tale, the people involved and the beauty of the ship and the age she briefly sailed through will never be forgotten. The urge to re-live history is most powerful when we think about the Titanic. Today there are several groups who are at least talking about building a Titanic replica so that contemporary people may roam her decks once again. With the coming centennial of that fateful voyage, such a project may actually be realized.
Bill Walker's first novel "Titanic 2012" tells a tale of one man's vision to build a new Titanic. The story is told from the point of view of Trevor Hughes, a successful mystery writer. Trevor is reunited with his Harvard classmates including Harlan Astor, the great-grandson of J.J. Astor who died with the Titanic in 1912. Harlan has made his own billions in real estate and now reveals to his friends that he has secretly built a new Titanic. Trevor is asked to chronicle the maiden voyage which will retrace the original route exactly 100 years later, on April 10, 2012. Trevor plans on recording interviews with the handpicked passengers and crew. Everyone was profoundly moved by Cameron's "Titanic" (the 'director's cut' of course) and are now living the dream of their generation.
Mr. Walker's novel is very compelling. The story is told in a flashback/flashforward style reminiscent of Cameron's film. Right away, we learn that something went wrong during the voyage. Trevor recalls the events of the recent past. As the new Titanic comes into being, Trevor is a man at a crossroads. His sometimes girlfriend Julia Magnusson is changing his status quo. His college reunion sparks doubts about his career and friendships. Harlan may be his closest friend but the Titanic project seems to have changed him as well. Their relationship is both superficial and complex. Once on the new Titanic, Trevor meets a woman who brings up his deepest emotions but seems to be hiding something profound.
Lest we forget, "Titanic 2012" is also about what a new Titanic would be like. Here Mr. Walker has not failed the reader. His details about the ship are fascinating and well thought out. One notable touch is the placing of portraits of the original 1912 passengers in the staterooms they occupied. Also to his credit, Mr. Walker has not painted a future full of weird gadgets and wild sociopolitical trends. This is, after all, only 14 years from now. DVD's have replaced audio cassettes and computer telegraphics abound. However, it is a familiar and credible world. The story is not about the future, it is about death and life and the importance of the Titanic legacy.
Buy "Titanic 2012" Now!
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