A voyage of Arctic exploration during the American Civil War becomes an epic tale of madness and survival in a stunning first novel animated by the spirits of Poe, Crane, Conrad, and Melville. Brendan Kane is a dreamy, directionless young man in 1860s New England. Fired by a speech given by a traveling recruiter, he signs up for the Union cause uaand experiences the full horrors of the Civil War. He deserts, drifting north to experience the draft riots in New York and, finally, to meet his fate in the form of the Narthex, a strangely shaped vessel anchored in the harbor of a whaling town. Kane signs up as a crew member without any inkling of the voyage's destination or goals, joining a crew of odd outcasts not unlike that of the Pequod, including one Aziz, the three-handed Muslim engine tender, and Dr. Architeuthis, the ship's scientist whose mania for data becomes increasingly indistinguishable from madness. While at sea, they come to learn that their goal is a mythic temperate valley, a paradise in the heart of the Arctic'a goal their captain and the Narthex's owner will stop at nothing to reach. At once spiritual, adventurous, and bleak, The Rope Eater displays a precise knowledge of the period and the customs of nineteenth century Arctic exploration. In its scope and rich language, it recalls the work of the great novelists of inner and outer voyaging'a tremendous debut novel.