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To the White Sea

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  623 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Award-winning and best-selling author James Dickey returns with the heart-stopping story of Muldrow, an American tail gunner who parachutesfrom his burning airplane into Tokyo in the final months of World War II. Fleeing the chaotic,ruined city, he instinctively travels north toward a frozen, desolate sanctuary he is certain will assure this survival--and freedom. Making h ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 1st 1994 by Delta (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,180)
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Matt
Forget "Call me Ishmael." Here's a hook for you:

"We are going to bring it to him," the Colonel said with satisfaction. A lot more than usual. "Fire. This is what you've got to look forward to. This is what he's got to look forward to." He leaned into it, from the heels, you could say. I sat and waited, looking straight ahead. "We're going to bring it to him." He looked down the rows of us, but I didn't watch him do it; all this was like before. "To the enemy, you know. Up yonder, friends. Up yon
...more
Steve
I’m not sure how to rate James Dickey’s novel, To the White Sea. As a piece of writing, it’s much better than I thought it would be, since the book was written toward the end of Dickey’s hard living life. However, the human factor – unless you want to identify with the Japanese victims in the novel (as tangential as they are, a very real option)– is about zero. Muldow, who is virtually the only character in the novel, since it's told in the first person, is a B-29 gunner who is shot down over To ...more
Jacob
To the White Sea contains one of the most uncompromising narratives and most unilaterally driven protagonists every committed to paper.

Muldrow, a WWII gunner, shot down over Tokyo, does whatever is necessary to survive; he is a man apart, thrown into a foreign land, with a different language, culture, and ideology.

The novel, almost devoid of dialogue, is a first person narrative of madness, encapsulated in the thoughts of one man. Lyrical, akin to a tone poem (being singularly possessed), that
...more
Chet Brown
Whoosh! Opens the parachute, and falling down like a bowling ball to war. This book to me gave me a lot of lessons and good tips such as having patience in a frantic time. As Muldrow, the main character, falls from his plane into Tokyo he comes across many challenges. He is just trying to stay alive! Without giving away the whole story I can say it comes down to the last bullet. When i read the books summary I immediately wanted to read it. I was so excited to see what really happens to Muldrow. ...more
Bret Bartlett
To The White Sea is a very different sort of book centered during WWII. The protagonist, Muldrow, having grown up in Alaska with only his father, has spent most of his life isolated, and in so has become a practiced observer. Focusing on land and color, Dickey uses him to draw out detailed and passive observations on the world around him, but using only simple language a boy from Alaska would know. The book is many things at once, an outsiders look at the culture in Tokyo, a view on what becomes ...more
George Nicholis
Read in 2009.

In the early 2000's, the Coen Brothers were supposed to adapt this book into a silent film starring Brad Pitt. I was super excited at the notion of a Coen-directed lyrical drama set during WW2, but then of course the project collapsed and it all went to hell. I finally picked up the book last year and gave it a read. And I'm glad I did - it's a fantastic, harsh story filled with some of the most fluid prose I've ever read. There is maybe three lines of dialogue in the entire book, a
...more
Alex Norcross
This is another book that I listened to on a tape while driving. The novel tells the story of an American bomber gunner shot down over Tokyo during World War II. For the most part, its a gripping narrative, especially the first (I'm guessing here) hundred pages or so. The novel kind of reminds me of Hatchet by Gary Paulson and similar manly-man stories by authors like Hemingway and McCarthy. However, like these other manly-man writers, I feel that Dickey fumbles when it comes to revealing depth ...more
Marlene
I tried, I really tried to make it through this book. It's written in first person and the guy, to me, is like a robot. No feeling, no emotion, constantly likening himself to animals. He grew up in Alaska, in the wilderness, and studied the animals; how they stalked, how they survived. He goes into the service and becomes a tail gunner in WWII. The plane is shot down and he parachutes into Tokyo. This was the first unrealistic part for me. There seems to be a lot of time while the plane is going ...more
Kent Bradford
I rated it a 2.5 in actuality. I wouldn't put it in the same category with Unbroken even though both deal with downed pilots and their Japanese adversaries. The writing style used by this author reveals the pilots's psychie and previous cultural experiences as he deals with different situations while on the ground in Japan. Although the style somewhat interesting, it did become the main focus of the 275 pages and thus a bit tedious for this reader.
Rowena
I have just finished reading this about 5 minutes ago...here are my thoughts, for what they are worth.
I found the cadence of the first-person narrative a little hard to read easily, I thought it to be a little stunted compared to 'usual' patterns of speech. However, once I read a few pages I found myself more comfortable.
What can be more thrilling than being shot down over enemy territory with only your wits and previous experience to keep you alive?! This was a page-turner. I was rooting for th
...more
Jim H
James Dickey did not write a lot of novels but when he did he wanted to create works that might ring eternal. Like Deliverance, his best known novel, this is elemental, visceral, violent, powerfully beautiful and resonant. I've read a lot and I think Dickey ranks in the top ten best writers in American history, despite his very short resume of fiction.
Dawn Van Ness
It will make you cringe and want to look away when this survivalist claws his way across and island of Japan. He is a predator, at one with the Lynx, but just when you might not be able to take another harsh, violent act, Dickey gives you a scene that is thought provoking, contrasting your civilized revulsion against other cruelties. When he lets you go, you might even see something that is ugly as beautiful - and there is where you start pondering. I knew he was taking the reader somewhere thou ...more
Greg
Very strange book. I read this because I heard the Cohen brothers wanted to adapt this to film. I thought Deliverance was a great book (also by Dickey), so I gave this one a try. It's about a WW2 bomber crew member being shot down over Tokyo during the fire raids and attempting to work his way to the northern island. Dickey develops the character in detail through progressive chapters, and his past becomes clear towards the end of the book, which makes all his previous actions make sense. Defini ...more
Larry
Sergeant Muldrow, tail-gunner on a B-29 in the last stages of the war against Japan, parachutes into Tokyo when his plane is shot down. It is the day before the big fire-bombing raid on Tokyo, and Muldrow uses it to his advantage. He uses the total chaos of the fire-bombing raid to get out of the city, killing several Japanese civilians along the way. He is uniquely suited for survival due to his rearing on the north face of the Brooks Range in ALaska. His father was a loner and a trapper, and M ...more
Rob
I can't help but compare this book with another one that almost has the same setting: American soldier is down behind enemy lines, with nobody to depend on but themselves in order to survive. To do so, they must descend to living and thinking like a savage and journey, with a single-minded determination toward a destination that promises salvation. That was The Last of the Breed, by Louis L'Amour. Louis L'Amour's premise is that a civilized man, when confronted with a choice between brutality an ...more
Ben
Jul 23, 2008 Ben rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: stabbers
The more I think about this book, the more I appreciate it. Ultrasymbolism is the name of the game. So is reverse anthropomorphism and a dash of hyper-atavism.

Blue-beyond-blue, stark red, endless white play leading roles here. So do fisher martens, rabbits and bears. So do blood and shit, stabbing and beating.

The book gets three stars because it just wasn't very enjoyable. It is very ponderable, but gets a little ponderous toward the middle. The point of the book is that the main character lacks
...more
DoctorM
What shall we say? Cormac McCarthy in the Kanto? Yes--- I like that. Beautifully written, powerful, great set pieces and landscapes with sudden eruptions of savage violence.

Simple enough plot, of course. An American B-29 crewman is shot down over Tokyo in March 1945, during the great fire raids on the city. He escapes north, seeking safety, seeking to avoid the fate--- beheading ---meted out to captured B-29 aircrew. He's Alaska-born, raised as a hunter and a trapper, and he has a lifetime of su
...more
Gregory Epps
An incredibly written tale by a renowned poet who wrote only three novels over his long career. The first novel was Deliverance and the last was To The White Sea. Written in a uniquely voiced First Person, we see a Heart of Darkness journey during the World War II bombing of Tokyo as the primal protagonist (who is also the antagonist) undertakes an hypnotic, overland odyssey in a land where everyone is his enemy and all elements are turned against him. The mystical finale is a mind-blower.
Toby McMillen
Hmmm...
I have very mixed feelings on this one. The main character is a hard guy to connect with (due to some fairly--without revealing too much of the story--anti-social tendencies, to say the least), but he does have a whole lot of the 'call-of-the-wild' about him as well. The story itself, the airman downed in Tokyo in WWII and trying to survive, is extremely compelling; it was the main reason that I got the book.
The writing is spectacularly clean and tidy, and very precise. I have since learn
...more
Bob
By the author of Deliverance. Set in Japan during WWII, it’s the story of a downed flyer as he makes his way from Tokyo where he was shot down to the northern end of Hokkaido. Muldrow is a tail gunner and before the Air Force he lived with his father in the interior of Alaska, Just the two of them in the wilderness. He grew up at home in the wild and snowy mountains, hunting and running trap lines. Winter was his special time and home and his escape to the north was in search of the cold and sno ...more
Timothy
For a while I thought this was going to be a five-star experience. The description of the firebombing of Tokyo was really immersive, and the main character was mysterious and unsettling. Dickey partially unravels some of his secrets, but I never fully understood him. More to the point, the plot just meanders through most of the book, and some of the episodes seemed silly to me.

It struck me as a book that was supposed to be carried by the writer's poetic sensibilities, and certainly a lot of the
...more
Joel Lee
The Cohen Brothers almost made this into a Brad Pitt movie years back, and it would have been an almost silent film. A WWII pilot crash lands in Japan and must make his way across the country and evade capture. What makes the book great though is Dickey's focus on the main character's relationship with the natural world and character's slow slide toward madness. Truly original work.
Doug Haddaway
I heard about this book while reading a screen writing magazine and since I usually like WWII stories I borrowed it from the library. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was written by James Dickey of Deliverance fame. The book starts off well enough, but quickly starts to drag on and on and on. Overall I liked the story, but feel it could have been shortened and still have been equally effective.
The story is about an American airman who is shot down over Japan, he survives in a very host
...more
Bryan
Yet another instance of "lowly" genre fiction dressed up as literature. "The Killer Inside Me" goes to war. Damn shame, too. The premise and the language are excellent. An U.S. Air Force machine gunner is shot down over Tokyo the week prior to the firebombing that resulted in more deaths than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. He must survive by his wits, staying hidden in Japan during wartime. Could have been amazing, especially if the hero of the story had to struggle between survival and his co ...more
Chris
Poetic. It starts out feeling very much like a typical Hollywood action flick. You have a loner type hero who gets shot down over Tokyo during WWII and makes a plan to sneak to Hokkaido, the great northern island of Japan that is full of mountains and wide open spaces where the hero intends to survive. But the story turns dark quickly. The hero kills without hesitation. On one hand, this makes sense, since he is alone in a country full of his enemies and killing is the only way he can survive, b ...more
Ellen
It was well written but not really to my taste, I did not finish it.. I should have known better when it said on the cover bestselling author of Deliverance. that film gave me the creeps.
emily
This book begins with a pull-up competition, which should give you an idea of how manly it is. (Hint: very.) Following Muldow as he sets off on a routine mission, hides out in Tokyo's sewers, and makes his way north through a freezy-cold Japan, we spend a lot of time thinking about survival (and, if you're me, a lot of time thinking about survivalists) and about the ways isolation can eat away.

I was really interested, as the book wore on, to see how Muldow was and wasn't dehumanizing the Japanes
...more
Andrew
I really enjoyed the main character's slow revelation into a bit of a amoral character. The survival stuff is good, interesting, but a lot of the character's repetition of knife, wolverine, and martins got old for me.
Drew Jameson
How do you relate to a brutally efficient killing machine doing anything to survive? One of the blurbs said To The White Sea "made the trials of Deliverance seem pale and suburban by comparison", which is probably it's biggest strength and weakness. Imagine if Deliverance were retold with Lewis (Burt Renolds' character from the film) as the only character and the hillbillies are Japanese soldiers. The story is similar, but the doubt, vulnerability and guilt that make the other book's characters ...more
Chris Albright
Wow.. Perfect Hothlanta read...
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Dickey was born in Atlanta, Georgia. After serving as a pilot in the Second World War, he attended Vanderbilt University. Having earned an MA in 1950, Dickey returned to military duty in the Korean War, serving with the US Air Force. Upon return to civilian life Dickey taught at Rice University in Texas and then at the University of Florida. From 1955 to 1961, he worked for advertising agencies in ...more
More about James Dickey...
Deliverance James Dickey Poems 1957-1967 The Whole Motion: Collected Poems, 1945 1992 Buckdancer's Choice James Dickey: The Selected Poems

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