The lunacy of the high seas finds a rich storyteller in Mark Richard.
Combining elements of southern gothic fiction with the prose styles of adventure stories and folk tales, Mark Richard's Fishboy tells the story of a young orphan boy who escapes his life of abuse at a cannery to set sail aboard a ship with a colorful crew. The high seas are no respite from craziness, however, as our protagonist, the eponymous Fishboy, is forced to contend with homicidal sailors and killer rogue waves. Richard's prose is a blessing and a curse; dense with grotesque imagery and sea freaks, it can undulate musically as the story takes on the sound of a song whose repeating phrases echo the delirium of Fishboy's world. At other times, the book capitulates to this surreal world and loses its focus. Fortunately, with murder and mermaids always a plank walk away, the dangers of life aboard the ship provide enough tension to drive the story forward. Yet plot is not the great pleasure of this novel, so much as its tall-tale characters—a giant, an idiot, even an inside-out child—and Richard's rich language reaches a fever pitch as the lunatic ship sails on in this sea adventure.