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Robert Macfarlane once again leads the way in new nature/science writing. This time he leads us down, investigating the world deep under our feet through caves, mines, underground cities, burial sites, ice-holes and more, recreating the darkness, claustrophobia and mind-bending effect of visiting these hidden and mysterious places. He weaves history, psychology, geology, literature, mythology and nail-biting suspense with the characteristic love of language and adventure which make his revelations both accessible and inspiring. It is a book that demands to be reread; at times Macfarlane can overload his readers with an incessant flow of ideas and facts although his narrative structure remains strong enough to carry everything he throws at it. I found myself staggered by fundamental aspects of our existence on this planet that I had never considered. Ultimately the book is a gateway to a world we are only mildly aware of, whether we choose to follow Macfarlane down the rabbit-holes and crevices physically, or consult the many references he provides for further study. Macfarlane may have mass appeal but he treats all his work as proper academic research and, to his great credit, he never takes the easy path. Be in no doubt that many books exploring similar territory will follow hot on the heels of Underland - but Macfarlane's comprehensive and engrossing volume sets a standard that few will match.
No praise, nor number of stars, can fully convey the quality of this read from this most talented of writers. I have devoured all his previous books and was just a little sceptical that this one might be a little too niche for my taste - how wrong I was. Despite concentrating on underground locations across the globe from Greenland to the Mendips, it is the light that Macfarlane throws on the human condition that makes this book so appealing. The chapter on the cave-riddled Karst area of North East Italy and Slovenia , with the horrors that took place there over two world wars, is amongst the most powerful I have ever read. His writing style is very unusual in the first part of the book : short stabbing sentences, which as always, make you think. My only caveat was that this relatively young family man appears to have taken a series of quite severe risks in writng this book, such as descending deep into a glacier. That makes the tender conclusion involving his 4 year old son all the more moving. I can`t wait for his next work.
It is a complex read, but GREAT, and I can hardly put it down. So many things that I didn't know, and so much knowledge to glean. I feel that it is changing the way that I feel about many things, especially the ground beneath our woods and forests. Haven't finished yet, but a spectacular (and sometimes deeply disturbing) journey, so far.
Having read all of Macfarlane's other books, and really loved them, I have been waiting for this title to come out for some time. Well worth the wait. Written with Macfarlane's usual engaging style. Prose that often verges on poetry. Informative,and new concepts are written in a way that does not talk down to the reader, but imparts the new ideas in a clear and inclusive way. And as usual with Macfarlane books, you are quickly drawn in and time whizzes past and many pages are consumed at a single sitting. Also, plenty of insightful notes and many listings of essays and papers to hunt out and pursue if that's what takes your fancy. For me, that's one if the many joys of a Macfarlane book: links to other authors and other books and information. Get a copy of thus book now and start your dark journey down to the Underland.
A review read 'McFarlane was a very good travel writer, now he is simply a very good writer' - That sums it up.
A outstanding book with excellent and terrifying stories told by a master craftsman.
Our past is written beneath our feet, we are building our own sub soil for which the future is likely to condemn us. Ignoring the issue of storing radioactive waste for 10,000 year, even then it will still be lethal.
A Robert MacFarlane book always delivers sumptuous prose evoking the wonders and glory of the natural world, landscape and the environment. In Underland he turns his attention to that which exists beneath our feet - the mirror world within our planet. The book is arranged in three parts: Britain, Europe and the North - also described as Seeing, Hiding and Haunting. It starts with an exploration of limestone caves in the Mendips with Sean Borodale "a bee-keeper, a caver, a walker and a remarkable poet". The physicality of caving is described so vividly that you almost feel you are there, with the tingle of fear and excitement as you squeeze through spaces barely big enough to take a person, into vast caverns of cathedral dimensions. But he's interested in more than just the rocks and the voids, and as they make their way through the cave systems Rob also ponders on the humans who have gone before, who used these caves for burial, mining, recreation and exploration. This combination of social history, adventure, geology, exploration and legend continues throughout as he moves further afield, meeting fascinating people who show him glimpses of their underlands. And as he travels from the Mendips to the catacombs of Paris, out into Greenland's glaciers and beyond, so the claustrophobia of the spaces increases oppressively with a creeping menace. Some of these holes in the ground are portals to amazing worlds, and some hide serious business, but all have to be treated with respect. It's a fascinating book with some truly terrifying moments.
Not my normal read - and is hard to categorise this book, to describe why anyone would want to read it.
It is about the world under our feet - a series of different places - part travel, part natural world, part science, part history. Each is place different. From the limestone caves & rivers which go underground in the karst, catecombs deep beneath Paris, to the understory of a forest, science labs deep in a mine looking out for dark matter, underground bunkers for storing nuclear waste, mountains and glaciers. Each section of the book was devoted to a different type of place, and all were fascinating. Some of the places were old - encompassing iron age burials or old paintings on rocks, others were for the future, mostly factual but with some mythology for good measure.
Written in a very readable & accessible style. Almost poetic at times.
This is both a mesmerizing and terrifying book. And if you read to the very last page - beyond the indices and the footnotes and the note of thanks - you will get a real sense of how the cover conveys this. But that is not revealed until those very last lines. A bit like McFarlane’s exploration of deep time in this book. His question - are we being good ancestors? - transcends a finite infinity beautifully and disturbingly. He fuses humanity and rock and soil deftly and solidly. A masterpiece. It may be one of the best books I have ever read. Thank you.