A fun adventure story marred by flawed storytelling.

AQUANAUT

A LIFE BENEATH THE SURFACE: THE INSIDE STORY OF THE THAI CAVE RESCUE

A British cave diver reflects on his career and his participation in a well-known death-defying rescue mission.

When Stanton, who was admittedly apathetic as a youth, watched his first cave-diving documentary at 17, he knew he had found his purpose. He arrived at college the following year and immediately joined both the caving and diving clubs. His love of underground exploration consumed him enough that he dropped out of school and became a firefighter to support his spelunking habit. For the next 38 years, his adventures took him to Britain, Western Europe, and Mexico, where he helped map out underground terrain, boldly experimented with caving equipment, and, on occasion, assisted in the recovery of bodies. Then, in the summer of 2018, a friend told him about a group of teenage Thai football players who had become stranded inside a cave after monsoon rains blocked the exit. Stanton flew to Thailand to assist in the removal of what he believed would be their remains from the cave. Even after he discovered the boys were all alive, he confronted obstacles at every turn: on-again, off-again rains that threatened to flood the caves even more; clumsy and dangerous rescue attempts by unskilled Navy SEALS; and a lack of proper equipment to save the boys. Using an unorthodox recovery method, Stanton led a successful rescue mission that earned him worldwide acclaim. The tale of the author’s exploits is undeniably exciting, but the text, co-written by Dealy, is weighed down by pedestrian details that slow the narrative pace. This problem is further exacerbated by the way he braids chapters pertaining to the rescue with those pertaining to highlights from his long career in cave diving. The result is an excessively detailed book most likely to appeal only to those who share Stanton’s subterranean passions.

A fun adventure story marred by flawed storytelling.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-919-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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