The North Water is beyond dark. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road looks like a leisurely stroll through a park on Sunday compared to this gruesome novel about a 19th century whaling expedition. The Volunteer is heading out on a six month voyage to northern waters, where hopefully all the whales haven’t been killed yet. Captain Brownlee, the ship’s surgeon Sumner, and harpooner Dax all carry secrets on board--some repugnant, some violent--while the financier may have sinister motives for sending them on this assignment. What happens after they set sail is gripping, graphic, and gruesome, and is not for the squeamish.