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A captivating read for Titanic and maritime enthusiasts.

An exploration of the aftermath of the Titanic’s fatal voyage.

Since the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, the ship has been the subject of legends and myths, edging on an obsession for some. Rather than focusing on what caused the ship to sink, science writer Stone, author of The Food Explorer, chronicles what has happened since the night the ship struck an iceberg. “In cultural lore, the Titanic is the wreck around which all others orbit,” writes the author. “The same way a pop musician can’t escape the influence of the Beatles or Michael Jackson, shipwreckers can’t bypass the brightest star.” Stone attributes much of the ship’s outsized, iconic status to “good storytelling.” Drawing on eyewitness accounts and expert reports, the author tracks the shipwreck’s history, including how it broke apart, the discovery of its resting place in September 1985, and subsequent plans and attempts to salvage the ship. “Raising it, however, would create a new set of problems,” writes Stone, including accelerating the ship’s decay. The author also discusses how surviving the tragedy changed many lives, particularly the survivor’s shame faced by those who were able to find a lifeboat and row away from the sinking ship, leaving hundreds behind. One woman “lived the rest of her life trying to salvage her and her husband’s reputations as heartless cowards.” Additionally, Stone discusses versions of the Titanic’s story that have appeared in books and film, including, of course, James Cameron’s 1997 mega-blockbuster. Though the author focuses on the Titanic, he writes about other maritime tragedies and maritime-related science, including hypothermia, what to do if you find yourself on a sinking ship, how sound travels underwater, disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle, and the effects of water pressure on the lungs. From the beginning of the narrative, Stone effectively draws readers in with his own great storytelling skills.

A captivating read for Titanic and maritime enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32937-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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A horde-pleaser, well-written and full of surprises.

“The Mongols swept across the globe as conquerors,” writes the appreciative pop anthropologist-historian Weatherford (The History of Money, 1997, etc.), “but also as civilization’s unrivaled cultural carriers.”

No business-secrets fluffery here, though Weatherford does credit Genghis Khan and company for seeking “not merely to conquer the world but to impose a global order based on free trade, a single international law, and a universal alphabet with which to write all the languages of the world.” Not that the world was necessarily appreciative: the Mongols were renowned for, well, intemperance in war and peace, even if Weatherford does go rather lightly on the atrocities-and-butchery front. Instead, he accentuates the positive changes the Mongols, led by a visionary Genghis Khan, brought to the vast territories they conquered, if ever so briefly: the use of carpets, noodles, tea, playing cards, lemons, carrots, fabrics, and even a few words, including the cheer hurray. (Oh, yes, and flame throwers, too.) Why, then, has history remembered Genghis and his comrades so ungenerously? Whereas Geoffrey Chaucer considered him “so excellent a lord in all things,” Genghis is a byword for all that is savage and terrible; the word “Mongol” figures, thanks to the pseudoscientific racism of the 19th century, as the root of “mongoloid,” a condition attributed to genetic throwbacks to seed sown by Mongol invaders during their decades of ravaging Europe. (Bad science, that, but Dr. Down’s son himself argued that imbeciles “derived from an earlier form of the Mongol stock and should be considered more ‘pre-human, rather than human.’ ”) Weatherford’s lively analysis restores the Mongols’ reputation, and it takes some wonderful learned detours—into, for instance, the history of the so-called Secret History of the Mongols, which the Nazis raced to translate in the hope that it would help them conquer Russia, as only the Mongols had succeeded in doing.

A horde-pleaser, well-written and full of surprises.

Pub Date: March 2, 2004

ISBN: 0-609-61062-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2003

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A compelling journey into the heart of darkness with an articulate, capable guide.

An investigation of evil and how it manifests in our society.

As an acclaimed journalist, Sullivan, author of Graveyard of the Pacific, Dead Wrong, and other books, thought of himself as a man of reason and intelligence, with a good dose of cynicism. Then, when covering the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia, he confronted too many atrocities to believe that nothing was behind them. The author sensed the presence of evil and began to research the origin of it, which led him to the fundamental figure of malignity. While researching the book, Sullivan brushed against inexplicable, personal incidents—e.g., a weird threat from a well-dressed stranger, an ominous letter in his mailbox, the dream image of a black dog. The author shows how Christianity gave the Devil a personification, a central role, and a name. Sullivan looks at the theologians who wrestled with the conflict between the persistence of evil and the presence of an omnipotent God, finding that none of them reached a satisfying conclusion. He also studies a number of serial killers and murders, as well as accounts of a carefully documented, nightmarish exorcism that lasted four months in Iowa in 1928. Yet somehow, writes Sullivan, the Devil has been able to convince everyone that he does not exist, so is “able to hide in plain sight because of the cover we all give him with our fear, our denial, our rationalization, [and] our deluded sense of enlightenment.” The author believes that the Devil is real, but, he adds, each of us is responsible for our own decisions. This is not an easy book to read, and some parts are profoundly disturbing. Sullivan offers crucial insights, but timid readers should think carefully before entering its dark labyrinth.

A compelling journey into the heart of darkness with an articulate, capable guide.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780802119131

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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