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The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime | [William Langewiesche]

The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime

Even if we live within sight of the sea, it is easy to forget that our world is an ocean world. The open ocean, that vast expanse of international waters, begins just a few miles out and spreads across three-fourths of the globe. It is a place of storms and danger, both natural and manmade. And at a time when every last patch of land is claimed by one government or another, it is a place that remains radically free.
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Publisher's Summary

Even if we live within sight of the sea, it is easy to forget that our world is an ocean world. The open ocean, that vast expanse of international waters, begins just a few miles out and spreads across three-fourths of the globe. It is a place of storms and danger, both natural and manmade. And at a time when every last patch of land is claimed by one government or another, it is a place that remains radically free.

With typically understated lyricism, William Langewiesche explores this ocean world and the enterprises, licit and illicit, that flourish in the privacy afforded by its horizons. Forty-three thousand gargantuan ships ply the open ocean, carrying nearly all the raw materials and products on which our lives are built. Many are owned or managed by one-ship companies so ghostly that they exist only on paper. They are the embodiment of modern global capital and the most independent objects on earth, many of them without allegiances of any kind, changing identity and nationality at will. Here is free enterprise at it freest, opportunity taken to extremes. But its efficiencies are accompanied by global problems, shipwrecks and pollution, the hard lives and deaths of the crews, and the growth of two perfectly adapted pathogens: a modern and sophisticated strain of piracy and its close cousin, the maritime form of the new stateless terrorism.

This is the outlaw sea, perennially defiant and untamable, that Langewiesche brings startlingly into view. The ocean is our world, he reminds us, and it is wild.

Listen to Terry Gross' conversation with William Langewiesche on Fresh Air.

©2004 William Langewiesche; (P)2004 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

What the Critics Say

"Equal parts incisive political harangue and lyrical reflection on the timelessness of the sea, this book brilliantly illuminates a system the world economy depends upon, but will not take responsibility for." (Publishers Weekly)
"Langewiesche, an Atlantic Monthly correspondent, might be the best investigative magazine journalist working today....His writing is impossibly thorough and powerfully understated..." (Entertainment Weekly)
"Langewiesche's narrative achieves an almost operatic grandeur..." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (73 )
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3.5 (11 )
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  •  
    Darren South Jordan, UT, USA 07-09-04
    Darren South Jordan, UT, USA 07-09-04 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    55
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    6
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    "Amazing Narrative!"

    First, a rare occasion of an author who is an excellent reader. A similar experience to listening Bill Bryson reading his work. The passion of the author reaches out, like having dinner with a friend who is an excellent speaker, knowledgable, and entertaining.

    Second, an amazing step inside the world of ships, the oceans, and the people who conduct commerce on the seas. I recommend The Outlaw Sea highly. I look forward to more by this author.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    01-31-06
    01-31-06 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    "Good Subject, Poor Narrator Choice"

    This book is way too long given the material the author presented. This could have been presented easily in half the time. There are excruciatingly long descriptions of ocean going disasters that do not bring much to the story.

    Additionally, the narrator's voice (the narrator happens to be the author) is AWFUL!! I mean if such things as annual Monotone Awards were given, he would be the hands down winner!!. If a better narrator had been used (such as George Guidall or Michael Kramer for example) the book would have been actually exciting at times. If the narrator approaches life with the same "enthusiasm" he projects with his voice, it's certainly no surprise how this book turned out to be so dull.

    I wasted my money on this. I gave it two stars, because during those times when the author was not spending hours describing one incident, it did give me a glimpse of the nature of traveling the high seas.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David North Wales, PA, USA 09-30-05
    David North Wales, PA, USA 09-30-05
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
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    "Interesting Listen..."

    This was a very insightful audiobook. One might think that a story about the sea and shipping would be somewhat boring, but the author did a great job of revealing many of the mysteries of the shipping industry and the people who make up its ranks. Also kind of scary to realize how dependant we are on the ships for getting our goods to and fro, and how vulnerable and difficult to manage the whole system is.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Berkeley, CA, United States 02-15-11
    Tim Berkeley, CA, United States 02-15-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Most authors shouldn't read their own books"

    i appreciate that an author knows his own material well enough to speak about it, but most authors lack the training to read their work in entirety without making a repetitive snoozer out of it, or garnishing it with awful dose of sincerity, or sarcasm.

    on the content:
    the book is disproportionately balanced in covering the wrecked Estonia. this shipwreck affords Langewiesche a jaw-dropping prose bonanza when he at last describes the survival-of-the-fittest series of events when the ship goes down. but the examination of the tangled investigation is too well trod, and at times too well revisited. this author is a gifted prose stylist, but because his treatment focuses on narrow, articulate examinations of particular ships and straits, i finished the book feeling still uninformed about the breadth of contemporary shipping in our world. there is only a touch of historical context, only a few nods to the geophysics of our ocean world. nonetheless, i would probably read other books by this author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lawrence Anchorage, AK, USA 10-02-05
    Lawrence Anchorage, AK, USA 10-02-05 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    Overall
    "Awesome"

    This is an eye-opening and interesting book, which in narrated superbly.

    There are several agencies world wide that book tourists on cruise vacations aboard cargo ships. Some of the new ships have guest cabins; others offer to accommodate passengers in the owner's cabin. They are low cost, and offer low to no frills open ocean getaways with no on-board crowds and stops at exotic ports of call. How fun...

    That's what I used to think. After this book, I would not even consider a trip aboard a cargo ship, and anyone thinking about one should read this book. The high seas is a shady underworld of shell companies that operate with no enforceable regulation. I am not even sure I would consider going on a commercial tourist cruise any more.

    Again: a really interesting book.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-5 of 5 results
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  • Mr.
    London, United Kingdom
    7/18/12
    Overall
    "This is a fascinating book - incredible"

    I am coming back to write a review of William Langewiesches The outlaw sea. Before i downloaded this book i had read the negative review about the authors voice in the narration.

    I have to say i have no problems with his voice with is a strong east coast draw to it. I find his voice to be rich, oaky and strangely very well suited to the story he is telling. His deep tones vividly bring to life the picture of a ship singing off Galicia or pirates raiding a a ship of aluminum off singapore.

    William Langewieche has done an amazing job here. He explains the explosion of shipping in our seas, the growth of piracy, how terrorists can run trade and smuggling through out the international shipping network because of the lax regulations and rule of law.

    International shipping has, like many other industries, suffered from a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of the wages paid to ships crews and the prices paid for transporting goods. We the consumer are responsible in some way because of the demand for the goods we want in our homes. This demand has created a sector of international slaves who work on ships unseen, unregulated working in conditions dictated by a few rich but invisible owners.

    Langewieche I find is a great communicator and is able to explain the economics, history, geography and global politics of modern day shipping with great ease. He moves at a good pace and i have found it very hard to turn this audio book off. I strongly recommend this as a story of a industry we all rely on but few understand. This is an eye opening and inspiring piece of work.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Kerstin F.
    3/10/10
    Overall
    "let down by the reader"

    I think the book itself is not uninteresting, but the choice of reader has been very unfortunate. His monotonous - slumber inducing - delivery made it very hard to follow the reading with any enthusiasm and I found myself switching it off way before the end.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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