Only 50 pages in, I began having a hard time believing that this was Tysk's first novel. By the midway point, I was already recommending it to friends. Her background bio shows that she's an English Lit major but that doesn't explain the maturity of her writing; she seems to have put out her first work already fully-developed. And I have no idea how she could acquire not merely the "knowledge" of the sea and ships and seamanship and nautical terminology, but she also has demonstrated an "understanding" of it all. I spent a good portion of my life on the water and worked on many different types of ships with all sorts of different people in many different parts of the world (including all of the places mentioned in this book save for New Bedford) and I can assuredly say Tysk has nailed it. It's something that can't be faked.
The greatest compliment I think I can pay to Tysk here is to mention that she writes with great masculinity, and this is vital to this type of sea-writing. It's not a wistful reminiscence upon the beach or a poetic memoir of the beauties of the deep. It is a very realistic tale of survival - body, mind, and soul - under the most trying conditions and she reveals it all to be quite beautiful and triumphant despite the loneliness and sadness that pervades it. Tysk lists Melville as her inspiration and she certainly weaves an exciting and fantastic yarn, but her prose is akin much more to Conrad, I think.
So, another self-published author has left me jealous and miffed. Why Tysk didn't shop this until it was accepted by a publisher, I don't know. It's as good or better as anything out there. And I've been following her social media and why she hasn't been marketing more and "pushing" sales for this, I don't know. If I'd accomplished what she's done in The Sea-God at Sunrise, I'd be shouting it from the rooftops. Instead, she seems to have done something remarkable and simply set it quietly aside as a monument to her talent. I hope not, I'd love to read more from her and would love to live some more adventure with the characters in her book.
4 rock-solid stars. On my list of the ten best books I read in 2012.