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
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Critic reviews

"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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Mr. on 18-07-12

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.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Kerstin F. on 10-03-10

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Darren on 09-07-04


this is an absolutely brilliant, non-fiction book that gives a very beautiful glimpse into the world's oceans and the shipping and sailing that appear goes upon it

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16 of 18 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By David on 30-09-05

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.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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