Jacob's Ladder

Fiction - Adventure
332 Pages
Reviewed on 09/28/2020
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

Jacob's Ladder by Ian T King is a beautiful story that is well-written for fans of literary fiction and adventure. Set in the 1970s, the story follows Billy Smith, who after reading the big poster, “Join the Navy and See the World,” makes the choice. After six weeks of training, he graduates first in his class at Dryad and joins his first ship in the Far East. Billy’s first week of his deployment at sea is not a fun experience. He is tortured by Petty Officer O’Bryan, a “petty” officer indeed, with a nasty attitude and pungent breath. But that is not where the troubles end: Billy gets himself entangled in a game of intrigue that eventually puts him in the dangerous yet fascinating world of Bugis Street in Singapore. Can he survive that one night and get back home whole?

Jacob's Ladder is a wonderful story with great characters. The writing is hugely descriptive and Ian T King has a unique gift for imagery. The descriptions appeal to the reader’s senses. It is hard to forget moments like the first encounter between Billy and Petty Officer O’Bryan. Billy can’t stand the blasting hot breath of the officer, “a pungent brew of stale tobacco and halitosis” as he constricts his nasal passages in a bid to block it out. The prose is excellent and the characters are memorable. Billy sets out to discover the world, but he does so in a most brutal way. The setting is brilliantly written. From England to Singapore, the author captures a colonial experience that is fascinating. Jacob's Ladder is gripping and fast-paced.

Christian Sia

Ian T King’s Jacob's Ladder is a mesmerizing tale of adventure with a fascinating setting. It is one of those books that warrant superlatives for description. Billy Smith is attracted by the poster with the invitation to “Join the Navy and See the World,” so he enlists and after completing training, joins his first ship in the Far East. But what he had thought would be a fun adventure turns out to be a heart-wrenching experience for him, with a Petty Officer who makes life unbearable at sea. But there are exciting and intriguing experiences that lead to the mysterious Bugis Street in Singapore.

Jacob's Ladder clearly shows how experience can transform an innocent young man and change his worldview in a short span. The novel is beautifully crafted with fascinating characters. I particularly enjoyed the way Ian T King builds the relationships between the characters and the one between Billy Smith and Petty Officer O’Bryan sets the pace for the conflict. The story has strong hints of British colonialism, and the adventure through one of the most infamous streets in Singapore, buzzing with life, is a memorable one. The descriptions are terrific, from character traits and the setting to scenes that are focused and exciting. The setting is well crafted and it feels like a character in the novel and the effect it has on the protagonist constitutes a strong element of success for this novel. The creative nature of describing places and people brings life to the story. Jacob's Ladder features unforgettable characters and an adventure that will entertain readers enormously. The novel is deftly plotted, balanced, and filled with intriguing moments.

Rabia Tanveer

Jacob's Ladder by Ian T. King is set in the 1970s as our protagonist has the experiences of a lifetime that change him forever. Seduced by the prospect of exploring the world while sailing the seas, Billy Smith had no idea he had bitten off more than he could ever chew or swallow. He managed to survive his basic naval training and he thought he was ready for the real deal. But even the hardest of boot camps could not prepare him for actual life on a ship. He faced hardships he never thought could ever occur. His petty officer loved to crush his hopes, the hard work on the ship proved to be a lot more than he was prepared for, and the dangerous beauty of Singapore tested his resolve. After so many life-changing and jarring experiences, could this English sailor ever get his old self back as he sailed home?

Reading Jacob's Ladder was a complete experience. Ian T. King provided readers with vivid imagery, he allowed them an in-depth look into the mind of Billy, and offered them a sensory experience at the same time. I could hear Billy’s voice in my head, I could feel the movement of the water and feel Billy’s confusion as he navigated the harsh waters of life. His dilemmas and his reactions to them were honest, they were real and they were human enough to make him relatable. The plot moved fluidly, the narrative held my attention until the end, and I enjoy how Billy had plenty of opportunities to mature. Very well-written and exceptionally detailed!

Vincent Dublado

Inspired by Melville’s classic novella Billy Budd, Ian T. King’s Jacob’s Ladder is a novel with underlying Christian symbolism that pays homage to human improvement and moral rectitude. Set in the early 1970s, we meet Billy Smith, a young man lured by the prospects of a sailor’s life in the exotic Far East. As he joins the crew of HMS Scylla to see the world, he will come to experience the dark side of the human heart in his encounter with Petty Officer O’Bryan, who is notorious among the crew for his vindictiveness. Billy also gets ensnared in the ship’s state of affairs as well as in the shadowy thoroughfare of Singapore known as Bugis Street. As Billy undergoes a wide spectrum of tribulations that will test how much he can stand, he will become alien to his former self before he can set foot in his beloved homeland again.

Jacob's Ladder is filled with solid statements about witnessing life’s stark and naked realities. This is evident in the way King vividly transports you to the scenes in Bugis Street, where the industries are always grinding, yet teeming with both unadulterated despair and earthly delights. It makes your reading heart-piercing as emotions often run high and passions rage. The nautical rigging title becomes key to the story’s plot as you go through stages of literal and figurative interpretations while Billy’s nautical adventures unfold. This work draws on some Christian symbolism and nautical research as well as King pulling out the reserves of his own creative consciousness. Generous and poetic in its details, this is a novel that you can enjoy and finish in one sitting.