Gruesome and completely fascinating, but requires translation.

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THE CUSTOM OF THE SEA

A SHOCKING TRUE TALE OF SHIPWRECK, MURDER, AND THE LAST TABOO

A gripping tale of four sailors adrift at sea—and the cabin boy eaten to sustain the remaining three—by British journalist Hanson.

The tale begins with Captain Tom Dudley, an honest upfromthe ranks sailor, being hired to sail the Mignonette, an old and small yacht, from England to New South Wales in 1884. After hiring three other crew members, including an inexperienced cabin boy, Dudley and his men set sail from England, are suddenly overwhelmed by a tremendous storm, and lose the ship with only minutes to get into their lifeboat. After more than 20 days adrift, the men discuss drawing lots to decide if one will be killed to sustain the others (the ``custom of the sea''), but then decide not to go ahead. Several days later, the cabin boy slips into unconsciousness and the others decide to forego drawing straws and kill him. Days later, the men are rescued and returned to England where they freely tell of their ordeal and the killing. Dudley (who performed the killing) is brought up on charges of murder and becomes a hallmark legal case. Hanson’s description of the voyage, his reconstruction of the men’s conversations both onboard ship and in the lifeboat, and the manner in which he weaves in maritime social history (and such other diverse topics as marine construction, navigation, medicine, and anatomy) are skilled and offer a compelling look at the life of sailors in the latter half of the 19th century, but in the chapters following the death of the cabin boy and the men’s rescue, the book becomes mired in the obscurities of the English legal system. Although the courtroom scenes in the book provide gripping drama, they read as if there has been little attempt made to make it palatable to an American audience.

Gruesome and completely fascinating, but requires translation.

Pub Date: April 14, 2000

ISBN: 0-471-38389-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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