A bold and intriguing fabulist novel that reimagines one of the most legendary characters in American literature—Captain Ahab of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick—from the critically acclaimed Edgar and World Fantasy Award–winning author of The Girl in the Glass and The Shadow Year
At the end of a long journey, Captain Ahab returns to the mainland to discover that he is a dead man—a walking ghost, whose tragic demise was detailed in a notorious fiction called Moby Dick. The consternated captain is eager to confront the true author of the novel, his former shipmate Ishmael. For Ahab was not pulled into the ocean’s depths by a harpoon line, and the greatly exaggerated rumors of his untimely death have caused him grievous harm—after receiving news of Ahab’s fate, his wife and son, Gabriel, left Nantucket for New York, and now Ahab is on a desperate quest to reunite with them.
Ahab’s pursuit leads him to the Gorgon’s Mirror, the sensationalist tabloid that employed Ishmael as a copy editor while he wrote the haunting tale of the ill-fated Pequod. In the penny press’s office, Ahab meets George Harrow, a clever and inspired opportunist and a master of hokum. Eager to exploit Ahab’s misadventures, he strikes a deal with the captain: the newspaperman will help him navigate the city to find his lost family in exchange for the exclusive story of his salvation from the mouth of the great white whale.
Their investigation—like Ahab’s own story—takes unexpected, dangerous, and ultimately tragic turns, and leads Ahab and Harrow on a wondrous odyssey from the docks of lower Manhattan to the treacherous Five Points and subterranean opium dens, to the free black settlement of Seneca Village and the magnificent New York Crystal Palace, and to the Indian Caves and the wilds of northern Manhattan. For Ahab, Harrow, and the diverse cohort of allies they enlist in their quest, the trail ends in an epic battle with a mysterious, seemingly magical, entity who thrives in the shadows and feasts on the nativist sentiments roiling New York—the grotesque Malbaster, who directs his horde of violent street urchins, the Jolly Host, to prey on the innocent, most notably the city’s new immigrants and blacks. But his most powerful weapon is a terrifying creature whose existence may be entwined with the captain’s own past.
Told with wisdom, suspense, a modicum of dry humor and horror, and a vigorous stretching of the truth, Ahab’s Return charts an enthralling and intriguing voyage involving one of the most memorable characters in classic literature, and pays homage to one of the greatest novels ever written. It is a love letter to a dangerous, thrilling, and colorful New York long past as well as an exploration of the art of literature and the imaginative power of stories to illuminate the truths of life and reveal who we are.