RogerBW's Blog

Underland, Robert Macfarlane 20 January 2020

2019 non-fiction. Macfarlane explores natural and man-made underground spaces.

This is another Book of the Week condensation; the five segments used here deal with caves under the Mendips, the Paris catacombs, the Timavo caves in north-eastern Italy, prehistoric cave art in the Lofoten archipelago, and ice caves in a glacier in Greenland. Perhaps deliberately, they all come out much the same: present-tense descriptions of Macfarlane's descent (usually with guides), some side notes on what he's inspired to think about while he's there, and usually his return to the surface.

The Book of the Week version was read by the author, and I couldn't help feeling he was enjoying the sound of his voice a little too much, especially when he gets to the end of a terribly important paragraph and signals it by spacing out the last. Few. Words. The writing's sometimes like that too; a lyrical flight of fancy inside the writer's own head isn't what I came here for, but rather the things they saw and did that inspired that flight of fancy.

There's no connective tissue (except for some early musings on deep time and the idea that we should try to be good ancestors); it's just five distinct episodes with nothing beyond the obvious to link them. That may well be a flaw in the condensation; when Macfarlane tries to hook the enjoyable trips up to the philosophy, the few sentences allotted come over as trite. Is there also some self-satisfaction, "har har I have been to this amazing place that you will never get to see"? I don't know; I thought there was, but by then I was already getting irked with the author.

This might well be better at full length, but I wasn't sufficiently hooked by these excerpts to want to get hold of a copy.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

Add A Comment

Your Name
Your Email
Your Comment

Your submission will be ignored if any field is left blank, but your email address will not be displayed. Comments will be processed through markdown.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gin gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo-nebula reread humour in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux lovecraftiana mecha men with beards museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life real life ranting restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1