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Extended Audio Sample The Surfacing Audiobook, by Cormac James Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Cormac James Narrator: Chris MacDonnell Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2015 ISBN: 9781504612470
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Far from civilization, on the hunt for Sir John Franklin’s recently lost Northwest Passage expedition, Lieutenant Morgan and his crew find themselves trapped in ever-hardening Arctic ice that threatens to break apart their ship. When Morgan realizes that a stowaway will give birth to his child in the frozen wilderness, he finds new clarity and courage to lead his men across a bleak expanse as shifting, stubborn, and treacherous as human nature itself.

A harrowing tale of psychological fortitude against impossible odds, The Surfacing is also a beautifully told story of one man’s transformative journey toward fatherhood.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The great topic of Cormac James’ The Surfacing is the reach of human possibility. The prose is calm, vivid, hypnotic, and acutely piercing. James is attuned to the psychological moment: this is a book about fatherhood and all its attendant terrors. It’s a remarkable achievement.”

    Colum McCann, New York Times bestselling author

  • “James’ haunting novel memorably captures the desolate landscape and the triumph of the human spirit in adversity.”

    Mail on Sunday

  • “Although [The Surfacing] initially appears to focus on the unwinnable crusade of man against nature, at its center is a love story—not a romance between adults but between a father and the son he learns to love…A moving reminder that some of the biggest journeys in life don’t involve going anywhere at all.”

    Financial Times (London)

  • “There are unforgettable descriptions of the creaking, shifting, endless ice, and the contrast with the warmth of a growing new life is very well done.”

    Times (London)

  • “James uses the sublime appeal of the Arctic and the extreme situation of his characters as the stage for an essentially domestic psychological novel…The prose matches the landscape, rigorously unadorned.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “James has clearly felt the aesthetic need to sound out the gap between the extant sources of such expeditions and the way polar regions and the first men who tackled them remain almost mystically out of reach of the twenty-first-century mind…The further the journey goes on the more we are willing as readers to kedge our way through his rendition of a madly ambitious, environmentally magnetic but inhospitable world.”


  • “Engrossing…It is James’ willingness to break free from the limitations of the traditional Arctic tale that takes the novel beyond the genre and widens its appeal. It allows the novel to venture far beyond the expedition narrative and delve into issues of fatherhood and responsibility, bringing all the complexities of the crew’s life back home under the blinding glare and unforgiving scrutiny of the Arctic sun. Beneath the surface of this expedition story, as with the stark ice-scape of the Arctic, it is in fact teeming with life.”

    Irish Independent

  • “There’s nothing like the reading buzz you get when a new book by an unfamiliar name grabs you and doesn’t let go…The cool precision of James’ writing draws you on as surely as if you’re there, trapped in that claustrophobic interior with the vast northern landscape stretching forever outside.”

    Irish Times 

  • “Superb…[The Surfacing] is told in lean, cool, poetic prose and is utterly compelling.”

    Scotland Sunday Herald

  • “As much Jack London as Daniel Woodrell…James cleverly fashions a tense, controlled work that is bolstered by weighty research.”

    Irish Examiner

  • “Essentially a frontier novel, albeit one set in the northernmost border of European exploration, the book gratifyingly defies expectations by refusing all romance: the hero and heroine are largely indifferent to each other, if not outright hostile.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “James’ sharp prose and attention to detail, particularly to sounds (splintering ice sounds like ‘plates being popped’), leave a lasting impression of this momentous journey.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “An extraordinary novel, combining a powerful narrative with a considered and poetic use of language…Reading the book, I recalled the dramatic natural landscape of Jack London and the wild untamed seas of William Golding.”

    John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

  • “Cormac James’ writing is very assured, with a harsh poetic edge. His evocations of barren landscape, sea weather, pack ice, and frozen skies are powerful and compelling.”

    Rose Tremain, internationally bestselling author of Restoration

  • “James expertly captures both the terror and the overwhelming boredom of sea life, of being stuck in the ice, of having nothing to do but the monotonous and sometimes impossible task of staying alive. Cold and unmoving at the start, James’ characters…slowly become fully, tragically human. Meditative and spare, this is not a fast read but one worth the effort: underneath all the ice, there is real emotional depth.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “In this meditative tale…Chris MacDonnell’s narration is perfectly understated and unhurried, capturing the austere and isolated setting and the crew’s masculinity and stoicism in the face of death…It’s a lyrical and poetic performance by both author and narrator.”


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About the Author

Cormac James was born in Cork, Ireland. He has published short fiction in Columbia, Guernica, AGNI, Phoenix Irish Short Stories, and the Dublin Review. The Surfacing is his North American debut novel. He lives in Montpellier, France, with his wife and son.

About the Narrator

Chris MacDonnell, an Earpohones Award–winning narrtor, has been an actor in the UK for over thirty-five years, working in London, regional repertory, television, radio, and film.