One of the most widely-read and respected books in all American literature, Moby Dick is the saga of Captain Ahab and his unrelenting pursuit of Moby Dick, the great white whale who maimed him during their last encounter. A novel blending high-seas romantic adventure, symbolic allegory, and the conflicting ideals of heroic determination and undying hatred, Moby Dick is also revered for its historical accounts of the whaling industry of the 1800's.
Can an abridged version of one of literature's great masterpieces do the original justice? Can such an attempt make a dense and sometimes rambling original more accessible to today's technology-inspired readers? The editor himself asks questions along these lines in his author's notes and it is this reviewer's humble opinion that he has quite successfully succeeded. Taking the best of Melville's original text, Needle injects historical references and invaluable observations on the life and times of the day to tell the story of Ahab, Ishmael, and the infamous whale. In doing so, Needle provides today's reader with a greater understanding of the shades of meaning inherent in Melville's lyrical original. A glossary and meticulously detailed drawing of a typical whaling ship provide the reader with even greater context. Raising the bar are Patrick Benson's amazing full-color illustrations and black-and-white sketches, managing quite magnificently to bring Melville's words and Needle's interjections to life. Somewhere between the pleasure (and pain) of the original and the ease of the movie lies this masterful abridged version.