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The Last Ship

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  1,447 ratings  ·  157 reviews
The unimaginable horror of total nuclear war has been let loose upon the world, and only one ship, the Nathan James, with 152 men and 26 women aboard, has survived. Her captain narrates the electryfing story of this crew's voyage through the hell of nuclear winter, their search for survivial, and the fate of mankind when they find an uncontaminated paradise.
" Beautifully w
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Paperback, 624 pages
Published February 13th 1989 by Ballantine Books (first published 1988)
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The Stand by Stephen KingThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsWorld War Z by Max Brooks1984 by George Orwell
Best Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
203rd out of 722 books — 2,215 voters
The Cruel Sea by Nicholas MonsarratHMS Ulysses by Alistair MacLeanRun Silent, Run Deep by Edward L. BeachMaster and Commander by Patrick O'BrianHoratio Hornblower 1 - 11. by C.S. Forester
War at Sea (Fiction)
11th out of 78 books — 22 voters


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Community Reviews

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Shibumi
I have read many reviews by other readers of The Last Ship over the years and each of them stated the same thing... I loved the plot and persevered to the end in spite of the authors writing style. And just like so many before me, once I finished this book I too threw it against the wall and shouted, HA! This book did not beat me!

This is a doomsday story about the last American war ship desperately searching for safe harbor in an irradiated and burned world. It's also a morality tale about how
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Laurie
While the story concept was interesting, the writing was overblown and laborous. I admit that I read for stories, not words, but this novel was painful. One sentence alone consisted of 118 words, 10 commas and three semi-colons. No, make that four semi-colons.

"Then, on my last visit, meant as a courtesy call more than anything, we reached, almost fortuitously, it seemed at the time, almost by a chance remark of his which he might very well not have made, another arrangement which embodied commi
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David Hakamaki
Oh my Lord, is the author long-winded. There are very few books that I need to stop reading. This is one of them. The author takes 2 pages to cover what should be covered in 1/2 page. Yes, it is that long winded. Overall, a good premise and a good story for the first 1/4 of the book (before I just lost patience and threw it down). The author seemed to have a dictionary at his desk to determine alternative words, just so his diatribe did't have to use similar utterance. His discourse meandered th ...more
Jim
This ranks as the most entertaining book I believe I have ever read. Brinkley gets the narrator Captain's thought processes perfect. How to resolve the nightmarish position in which this ship has now found itself, maintaining discipline and turning to the job most obviously at hand, how to preserve mankind, and civilization in a post apocalyptic world, all with the presence of a Russian submarine in apparent pursuit, is done with imagination and a thoroughly fast paced page turner. In its own wa ...more
Nick
If you're writing a book about the aftermath of a nuclear war, and you spend less time on World War III than on describing the oral sex the protagonist has, YOU HAVE FAILED AS AN AUTHOR.
BookBandit
I really, really wanted to like this book.

Post-apocalyptic survival story aboard a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, right up my alley; however, I just couldn't get into the writing style.

Pros:
The author knows his stuff when it comes to the U.S. Navy and personnel. Great insight into the mind of a ship captain under extraordinary circumstances. A warship navigating a post-nuclear war: encountering remote islands, scavenging wasteland coasts, survivalist, modern warships, etc.

Cons:
Writing style
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Lori L (She Treads Softly)
The Last Ship by William Brinkley is a post-nuclear-apocalyptic novel which focuses on the survival of the crew of the destroyer Nathan James. Although, surprisingly, the actual actions of the crew are secondary to the incessant, introspective, ponderous narrative by the ship's captain. Many of the captain's reflections concern how much more wonderful sailors are, in every respect, when compared to other people. I guess it's good sailors are, perhaps, the only known survivors, huh? Someone did n ...more
Bryan
I've decided to give this book two stars rather than one, because there were a few small positives. The premise was very interesting, being the reason I picked up the book in the first place. I also quite enjoyed the plot, from a high level. If someone were to summarize the novel to me I would probably be very exited to read it.

Unfortunately, everything else about it was a disaster. The biggest problem was the first person narration. A tricky thing to pull off in most cases, this problem was com
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Michael Havens
May 20, 2009 Michael Havens rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: THose who like Apocalyptic Literature
I have to admit that William Brinkley's 'The Last Ship' is hard to rate. I I were to have discretion, I would rate this hovering between three and four stars, but to be liberal, I'll give it a four. There is something ambitious as lirerature in this work of apocalypse. The story of the un-named commander of the destroyer, the Nathan James, has been discibed as a type od 'Heart of Darkness' of Joseph Conrad fame. The Nathan James, the seemingly only ship besides a Russian submarine, the Pushkin, ...more
Paul Finch
Lots of things happen in this book. The problem is that they occur with no build up, are related in as mind numbingly tedious a parade of pretentious twaddle as I've ever read, and then are over before they have a chance to start. Then, it's on to the next event, which will be equally devoid of any excitement, wit, charm or relatable characters. Repeat until the author just gets bored and decides to stop (there is no real conclusion).

One of, if not *the* worst book I've ever read. Avoid.
Jacqueline
This book lingered in my mind for weeks after I read it. I sometimes still flash on it. It is the story of the men on a warship after global thermonuclear war. They travel around the oceans and every time you think something is going to go right for them, something worse happens. Gives you a lot to think about. Well worth the read if you like lots of characters and huge books and post apocalytic fiction.
Troy
I like post-apocalyptic literature and picked this up after seeing the TV series. I think saying the series is based on the book is wrong; rather the series is inspired by the book.

Both the book and series are very good but they are very different. Liking one is no guarantee of liking the other.

Brinkley writes in long sentences and paragraphs. He also has a large vocabulary. Some reviewers find his prose tedious, but I did not. I enjoy breaking out the dictionary and I did not mind the long sent
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Larry
The crew of the guided missile destroyer USS Nathan Hale are the last survivors of an all-out nuclear war between the US and the USSR (the book having been published in 1988). The 300+ members of the crew face dwindling food supplies, dwindling reactor capability for travel, and an increasing awareness that almost all of the planet is uninhabitable. Written from the point of view of the nameless captain (a deep, interesting but sometimes excessively wordy and introspective person), Brinkley's bo ...more
Matt
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Todd
This is a tough one for me to rate. I thought the story was incredible, but tripped over Brinkley's style constantly until I finally got semi-accustomed to it about 2/3 of the way through. There were literally times I would stop to actually count words and punctuation types within certain never-ending sentences (I remember that one had 118 words, four semicolons, and nine commas). And those sentences often didn't even go anywhere, I would re-read them a few times to see if I could puzzle out the ...more
Patrick Nichol
This is a compelling post-apocalyptic novel on par with Nevil Shute's classic On The Beach.
How does a warship whose male crew outnumber the female survive after the world ends?
Although Brinkley's story is interesting, it is not flawless. The narrator, Capt. Tom Chandler, talks like he swallowed a thesaurus. The reader should be spared the litany of $9 words.
And for those expecting the high-octane action of Michael Bay's TV adaptation, they will be disappointed.
Jim
During the Spring and Summer of 2014 I watched a cable TV series entitled THE LAST SHIP (ISBN 978-0142181836, trade paperback, $17.00). I thought the title was familiar and looked in my bookcase. There was the book by WILLIAM BRINKLEY. I realized I had bought the book about 25 years ago but had not gotten around to reading it. I am almost sorry that I did.

The story primarily follows the crew of a U.S. Navy nuclear powered, missile carrying, destroyer during and following a nuclear holocaust circ
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J
This novel tests your endurance of both length (624 pages) and florid prose. Told from the 1st person view of the Captain of a guided missile destroyer at the height of the cold war, I couldn't help think: "I doubt a captain would be this verbose." I can accept the author is perhaps trying to convey the Captain's desire to play up the writing as it is told from the perspective of the end of the story relaying the events.

Like another review I read, I couldn't keep reading every singe stray thoug
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Susan Kerr
The Cockneys would say, "Cor! It was becomin' chronic, mate."

And so it was.

I've no issues with an author exercising his or her vast vocabulary, but Brinkley indulged in wretched excess in this book. Six-syllable words in a non academic work is gross overindulgence.

In addition to overt purplish -- nay, bruised -- prose, this book wandered off course, lost amid endless swells of incomplete character development, rip currents of painfully repetitive descriptions of what makes a person turn to the s
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Kd
I cant believe I didn't catch this post apocalyptic book in the early 90's. It was great. The only part I didn't like was the detailing of the relationship between the captain and a woman. It was a little too graphic for my taste so I skipped paragraphs as needed. A mention was made at the end of the book about a tale for another book. I'll have to see if Brinkley wrote one. I didn't care for Don't Go Near the Water by Brinkley but this was so different and just the genre I like.
Todd
I bought this book because of the tv show. I was disappointed from the beginning when I discovered that the book is about surviving nuclear war and not a deadly virus. I also didn't care for the authors style of writing. I am not the smartest grape in the bunch but I'm also no dummy. If I stopped to look up every big word he used, I wouldn't have finished this book until next Christmas! The last sentence in the book is "But that is another book."Not for me!
Greg
I love this genre of book. I usually dont stop reading a book. Its kind of a thing with me. However, Brinkley's writing style was annoying. He is certainly poetic and has a huge colorful vocabulary. He should use all the flowery poetic for a different genre. He seemed as if trying to impress with the variety or ways to same the same thing. You dont have to describe the sun going down 14 different ways. I get it. Anyway thats just my opinion.
Jean Farrell
This is an odd book, hard to rate. I would give the concept 4 or 5 stars, but the execution 2. So I give it a 2.5.

I read a snippet of a review written at the time the book was published that said "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment.

Mild spoilers throughout. And my review criticizes the author more than I normally would, but he's been dead for years, so I can't hurt his feelings!

The idea of there being one ship of people left after an al
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Rick
I read this book shortly after it was first published (1989) and really liked it. And I liked it just as much on this second reading. I have read some of the reviews of this book and many people complain about the writer's style and how long the sentences are. I can see how this would irritate some and the style may not be for everyone. However, it worked for me. The story is told in the first person from the perspective of the captain of the Nathan James, an American Navy guided missile destroy ...more
Phil Ploquin
The Last Ship is set in the late 1980's and puts you in the mind of a United States navy ship's captain. His ship, the destroyer USS Nathan James, is based out of a US Navy base in Norway and roams the Barents Sea in order to stay within striking distance of the strategically important Soviet city of Orel, for months at a time. The life of the captain and his 200+ strong crew consists of struggling to survive the elements at sea while morbidly awaiting the order to launch Tomahawk missiles outfi ...more
Valerie
This is a great story wrapped up in a difficult writing style. I haven't read any of this author's other books, so I'm not sure whether this incredibly dense and complex writing style is his own or the style he chose for his narrator. In dialogue sections it becomes MUCH easier to follow, which makes me think maybe these absurdly complex sentences belong to the narrator, who overthinks and dissimulates habitually. Honestly some of these sentences were so difficult to follow that I'd get to the e ...more
Kirkus
Im writing this review while Im half way trough with it, will add/subtract perhaps later.

This book told me clearly that I have become an action junkie, just like those looser who celebrate Transformers and Avengers like the best thing after the coming of Jesus. I find it hard to read all background thoughts when I so dearly want to see how it ends. The prosa and language is really good, so is the thoughts the auther shares with us.

I can only find one fault and that is, the interesting backstory
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Chris Bull
As a fan of apocryphal fiction, I looked forward to reading Brinkley's Last Ship.
There were times when I thought that his style was a bit too drawn out. Some readers have commented that it takes too much from Melville's (Moby Dick) style. Which I am inclined to agree with. - Often pages are taken up with the narrator's (the captain) inner worries and thoughts.
It does have shades of "On the beach" about it, i.e. looking for a safe haven.

Towards the last 1/4 of the book, my interest was back.

Brin
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Ashley FL
This is both 2 stars and 4.5 stars, so I'm not sure how to rate it. The story is a great one: nuclear sub survives global nuclear war. Told from the point of view of its Captain, the books mainly follows the ship and its crew through the aftermath as they attempt to determine who/ what is left -- and what the rest of their lives will entail.

Not so great: The author clearly reveres the Captain as a model of Navy uprightness -- the reader is mostly left to think that the Captain is an emotionally-
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Meg McGregor
I know lots of people really like this book. I have read over 250 pages and just give up!

The premise to the book I really liked since I love dystopian literature but I have read over a quarter of the book and all they have done is settle an island.

Reading this book is like trying to climb your way through thick and gooey marmalade. It seems like it is going to be a sweet treat but just ends up a slippy and sloppy mess!

I am sure others will tell me (but please don't) that I should have finished t
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  • Level 7
  • Warday
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William Clark "Bill" Brinkley was an American writer and journalist.

Brinkley is perhaps best known for his 1988 novel, The Last Ship, and his 1956 novel, Don't Go Near the Water, which was later adapted to film in 1957 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as Don't Go Near the Water.

Brinkley was born in Custer City, Oklahoma on September 10, 1917, the youngest of five children and the son of a minister. He gradu
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More about William Brinkley...
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“I’ve often wondered which, psychiatry or religion, has done more damage. Between them, they about owned it all.” 0 likes
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