Blind ambitions

Landfalls: A Novel

Davis resident Naomi Williams' debut is racking up raves, and for good reason. Landfalls: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26) is the story of the French expedition to circumnavigate the globe in 1785, led by Jean-Francois de Galaup de Lapérouse. With a multivocal narrative, Landfalls goes beyond the typical purview of either historical or nautical novels; while it succeeds as both, it's also concerned with the ambitions of empire and the urge to colonization. But ultimately, it's a rip-roaring tale of what happens when a society that thinks of itself as civilized and technically advanced is pushed face-first into the reality of a world beyond its control, which makes it as contemporary as the front page.