From The Best Selling, Award Winning Author Of Landmarks And The Old Ways, A Haunting Voyage Into The Planet S Past And FutureHailed As The Great Nature Writer Of This Generation Wall Street Journal , Robert Macfarlane Is The Celebrated Author Of Books About The Intersections Of The Human And The Natural Realms In Underland, He Delivers His Masterpiece An Epic Exploration Of The Earth S Underworlds As They Exist In Myth, Literature, Memory, And The Land ItselfIn This Highly Anticipated Sequel To His International Bestseller The Old Ways, Macfarlane Takes Us On An Extraordinary Journey Into Our Relationship With Darkness, Burial, And What Lies Beneath The Surface Of Both Place And Mind Traveling Through Deep Time The Dizzying Expanses Of Geologic Time That Stretch Away From The Present He Moves From The Birth Of The Universe To A Post Human Future, From The Prehistoric Art Of Norwegian Sea Caves To The Blue Depths Of The Greenland Ice Cap, From Bronze Age Funeral Chambers To The Catacomb Labyrinth Below Paris, And From The Underground Fungal Networks Through Which Trees Communicate To A Deep Sunk Hiding Place Where Nuclear Waste Will Be Stored For , Years To Come Woven Through Macfarlane S Own Travels Are The Unforgettable Stories Of Descents Into The Underland Made Across History By Explorers, Artists, Cavers, Divers, Mourners, Dreamers, And Murderers, All Of Whom Have Been Drawn For Different Reasons To Seek What Cormac McCarthy Calls The Awful Darkness Within The World Global In Its Geography And Written With Great Lyricism And Power, Underland Speaks Powerfully To Our Present Moment Taking A Deep Time View Of Our Planet, Macfarlane Here Asks A Vital And Unsettling Question Are We Being Good Ancestors To The Future Earth Underland Marks A New Turn In Macfarlane S Long Term Mapping Of The Relations Of Landscape And The Human Heart From Its Remarkable Opening Pages To Its Deeply Moving Conclusion, It Is A Journey Into Wonder, Loss, Fear, And Hope At Once Ancient And Urgent, This Is A Book That Will Change The Way You See The World This was a bit of a hodgepodge for me that it s exceptionally written goes without saying, but I m not sure Macfarlane succeeds in bringing together all of his wildly different subterranean topics mining, caving, burial chambers, the study of dark matter, radioactive waste, tree communication networks, Parisian catacombs, the mythical rivers of the underworld, prehistoric cave paintings, resistance to oil drilling, Greenland s glaciers and Finland s tunnels, and I felt crushed by the weight of the prose by page 30 and skimmed the rest.Some lines I loved Time moves differently here in the underland It thickens, pools, flows, rushes, slows Philip Larkin famously proposed that what will survive of us is love Wrong What will survive of us is plastic, swine bones and lead 207, the stable isotope at the end of the uranium 235 decay chain The same three underground tasks recur across cultures and epochs to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful We are often tender to the dead than to the living, though it is the living who need our tenderness most I was also sobered by his statement that most of us don t know where we will be buried a symptom of the nomadic nature of modern living. In brief Without question the best most interesting Macfarlane book I have read 4.5 5 and happily rounded up In fullI am a fan of Robert Macfarlane s work and have read a number of his books over the past few years All the previous books I ve read have been largely about life in the open This one takes a very different direction and goes Underland In common with previous books it looks at its subject in differing places, times and ways The range of Underland topics that he manages to cover is diverse, fascinating and thought provoking at times.I would argue that you need to savour a Robert Macfarlane book I actually took a couple of months to read this, dipping in when I felt the inclination In the case of this book in particular, and his others sometimes, they take you to strange places often known mainly to the author For example the chapter on the Wood Wide Web I found simply fascinating It was a subject I had little knowledge at all of and I found that it touched something in me The Paris catacombs I knew slightly about Or at least I thought I did Once I read the chapter I knew far.Within the chapters there are often comments that are almost asides Again these made me sit up and take notice I would offer as examples the comments on the hunger stones in the river Elbe or the life of drain workers in India marvellous The writing is rich, interesting and vivid in the main It is not a book to rush.If you want to skip a bit fine but do be careful There are gems in amongst the main headings Taking the Karst and underground sorry underland river near Trieste there are notes stories thoughts about cave exploration, rationale for doing so, mythology, flora and fauna, and dark tales of war among other things just as an example.I will confess that not every chapter fascinated me however the ones that did left me reflective and pleased that I had gained some new knowledge of this world we live on I loved some of the ideas that came across to me in this book When in Greenland he offers the idea that ice has a memory for thousands of years for example.During the course of this book he meets with stays with explores with some deeply fascinating people There is a rich warmth of humanity in this even if sometimes the stories take us to far darker places.After Greenland Macfarlane goes to Finland to see the Hiding Place This is a storage facility being built deep underground and intended to last for 100,000 years It is for the storage of nuclear waste Interesting enough you might say However, in the way that this author seems to be able to do so easily, he couples this with the Kalevala, an epic folk poem from Finland This poem dates back a long time however Macfarlane draws out somewhat surprising similarities between this two quite different topics Obviously he also looks at the subject of other nuclear storage facilities as well together with that topic as a whole In turn this leads to the subject of language systems and how to communicate with people who will not be born for many centuries It is remarkable just how readable and interesting he can make such diverse subjects.In a sense this is a difficult book to review My journey Underland over the period of a couple on months will not be the same as anyone else s probably The parts that touched me may not touch others in the same way Certainly some people will look at this book and simply wonder why However if the idea of this interests you maybe you should look at trying it If you have read previous books by Robert Macfarlane it is possible that, like me, you will consider this his best richest book yet.Note I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair reviewhttp viewson.org.uk non fiction und Wonderful book The writing is fantastic It s lovingly descriptive and deeply contemplative The author explores the spaces deep within the Earth for what they say about the Earth s long past and what it might mean for our future His descriptions of exploring arctic ice and the what the deepest levels may have locked within them was my favorite part It makes me want to go there, even though I know I wouldn t last 30 minutes in that weather. Mankind has long looked to the heavens seeking fortune, inspiration and direction Numerous cultures have all considered the underworld to be a place where a river carried the dead away from the surface, where death abounded, hell, hades and other places were thought to exist It was somewhere to be avoided Yet, people have worked underground for thousands of years, tracing and extracting the minerals and ores in the ground, However, it is not something that most people do on a regular basis in the UK now our mining industry is gone We do head beneath the surface though as millions of people think nothing about going on the tube under London and other capital cities to get to work However, very few get to go to where Macfarlane is heading.His journeys into the nether regions of our planet will take him to the catacombs of Paris where his guide knows the numerous passages so well that she doesn t need a map Squeezing through tiny gaps, pulling his bag behind him, he will not see the sun for a week He will venture deep underground in Finland visiting a nuclear waste site Here they are burying copper and steel tube holding waste uranium, that will have to be buried for thousands of years and sealed behind a million tonnes of rock The engineer s joke that they might find the last lot that was buried in the rock they were blasting.People have been entering caves since time immemorial, some caves are easy to enter, though not straightforward to reach and they reveal art that is millennia old The caves he visits to see this amazing art are not always the easiest to find, and it is not always the easiest thing to see on the walls as he discovers Each cave he enters challenges his perception of the underground landscape, having to descend vertically in almost pitch back, wading through underground rivers that might flood with no warning He sees first hand how the same forces that shape our coasts and mountains, also transform the Underland Most memorable is an underground chamber where there are dunes of black sands.In Greenland, he climbs mountains and abseils down a moraine in a glacier and it is as cold and frightening as I d expect Secrets from under London with Bradley Garret from the London Consolidation Crew are revealed as they head to places that they really shouldn t be going Underneath forests are than just roots, as Macfarlane understands how trees talk to each other through the Wood Wide Web One of the deepest points he reaches is to see the place where they look at the stars The way into the Underland is through the riven trunk of an old ash tree It is through these and the other locations he takes us, that we get to hear the stories of these places that never see the sun As will all of Macfarlane s books, there is a wider message that he is talking about in what has been called the Anthropocene and that is about the damage that we are doing to this, our only planet The reason he can abseil down the moraine on the glacier is because of global warming and the implications for humanity should the repositories hold the nuclear waste leak or rupture do not even bear thinking about If you have read any of his previous books then this is a must read It is not as uplifting as those books as it is much darker given the places he visits and the subject matter but that doesn t make it any less thrilling It is not one to read if you suffer from claustrophobia I like the way that he can link seemingly unrelated subjects from classical history to modern day physics with that common thread of being under the ground Macfarlane has a way with words that carry you as he heads deep Underland to see our past and glimpse our future I have been anticipating this for over a year now and it was well worth the wait If there was one tiny flaw, I would have liked to have seen some photos included of the places he visits. I m a seasoned armchair traveler, used to shadowing journeys that I know I ll never do myself One of my BFFs is always telling me never say never and perhaps she s right, except when it comes to this book, Underland Hand on heart, I will never follow in Robert Macfarlane s footsteps underground I m too claustrophobic.This book is many layered A bridging theme to his many different journeys is our generation s legacy to the future In the words of Jonas Salk, Are we being good ancestors No, we re not, is the short answer and I think we all know that There s nowhere that it s apparent than on Greenland s glaciers The speed at which they re melting should terrify us all MacFarlane doesn t just travel over the glaciers, he abseils into a moulin which is a hole made my meltwater that deep down will turn into a fast flowing river that melts the glacier from below.It is his journeys below ground that sent shivers down my spine He describes his caving exploits in England so well that I found myself holding my breath with him as he squeezed through holes so narrow that he had to turn his head sideways to get through How can people do that He journeys miles out under the North Sea through mining tunnels where equipment is left to rot because it s impossible to get it back out I felt just as claustrophobic when he writes about his urban exploration experiences, squeezing through rabbit hole size spaces to gain access to mile after mile of tunnels beneath Paris I didn t know this was a thing and that there are groups of people all over the world participating in this hobby.As he wanders through a forest, he learns about the hidden life of all that grows there A forest might best be imagined as a super organism A city of interactions with trees, fungi and plants sharing, trading, befriending and supporting each other in a world that lies hidden under our feet a wood wide web.This book is full of amazing journeys, thoughtful writing and guidance for the future, if anyone wants to listen The ultimate lesson we should learn for our own peace of mind is Find beauty, be still.With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books UK for a review copy.PS Somehow my review has been posted twice and the book marked as read twice Gremlins one of the most compelling, vivid, thought provoking, magnificent, and richly composed non fiction books i ve read in some time, robert macfarlane s underland a deep time journey traverses the european continent, exploring subterranean locales both natural and man made and, er, man caused with his poetic command of language, keen observational gifts, and worldly perspective, macfarlane s writing is frequently breathtaking.seamlessly blending scientific inquiry, nature writing, travelogue, adventure tale, reportage, history, and requiem for our anthropocenic age, underland delves deeply both literally and figuratively macfarlane s new book is a remarkable exploration of natural wonder at some of the earth s most inaccessible and outlying underlying places macfarlane s enthusiasm and awe are contagious, as is his evident sorrow for what our species has collectively wrought and brought to bear on ecosystems near and far perceptive, reflective, and educative, underland is unequivocally one of the year s must read books a masterful, exceptional work we should resist inertial thinking indeed, we should urge its opposite deep time as a radical perspective, provoking us to action not apathy for to think in deep time can be a means not of escaping our troubled present, but rather of re imagining it countermanding its quick greeds and furies with older, slower stories of making and unmaking at its best, a deep time awareness might help us see ourselves as part of a web of gift, inheritance and legacy stretching over millions of years past and millions to come, bringing us to consider what we are leaving behind for the epochs and beings that will follow us.when viewed in deep time, things come alive that seemed inert new responsibilities declare themselves a conviviality of being leaps to mind and eye the world becomes eerily various and vibrant again ice breathes rock has tides mountains ebb and flow stone pulses we live on a restless earth. Award winning and bestselling author Robert Macfarlane is back with a stunning story of landscape, nature, people and place and the accompanying history Mr Macfarlane captures your attention rapidly with the interesting, information rich text describing places lots of people will have no knowledge of The author manages the fine balance between introducing us to enough information so that we are intrigued and suitably engaged but not so much that you become bored and drift away That s no easy feat.This time we follow him on an adventure to learn about those secret often unmapped places beneath our feet I found it quite profound and nothing short of beguiling Anyone who enjoyed Macfarlane s other nonfiction will find the same to admire here That said, I think this is his best and most informative book yet It is also written in a fashion that seems accessible and understandable to everyone The subterranean landscape he explores is so unique and fascinating and the folktales and mythology introduced make this a mysterious read This is science and nature reporting at its very best Many thanks to Hamish Hamilton for an ARC. I was wary of Underland at the beginning, as I normally reach for Macfarlane s books when I cannot go exploring myself Sort of a stand in adventure while bound to my desk for work or asthma keeping my indoors in winter How would it work reading about him exploring terrain that I have absolutely no interest in exploring myself Would I love it or would I be detached and disinterested Right from the beginning, I was greeted by the high level of writing It is a bit like meeting up with an old friend, you sit down and pick up where you left off, even when it has been years The writing is sublime And the introduction to the Underlands is gentle, sharing his fascination, his motives for writing, he slowly guides us into the book I loved visiting underground spaces in this way without the need for myself to get uncomfortable, wet or in a dangerous situation Armchair travelling at its best.Not all journeys take you literally underground, some are just left you wondering what s underfoot and I certainly took that with me on my walks last week on holiday in Scotland Oddly, I thought most about his words after climbing the hill to an old Iron Age Hillfort, pondering what lay beneath me and what memories the stones held that I was standing on I don t think, I ever really gave that much thought to what is under my feet than that what lies before my eyes when out walking And quite frankly that change in perspective was refreshing.It also got me thinking about my own place in the world, what legacy I will leave behind What impact I can have to safeguard, to protect and to pass on And this is where the real strength of any good book comes from The moment you put it down, it still occupies your thoughts, you carry its wisdom with you and phrases pop into your head when you are doing other things.Certainly a book for me that I will revisit over and over again, preferably reading out passages to my husband, because the writing is just so wonderful And we shall keep going out and find beauty and be still. An excellent continuation of MacFarlane s mapping of both real and psycho geographic spaces, this time sub terranean Adds wonderfully to what will ultimately be a completely unique interactive history Hard to imagine what might be next but very much looking forward to it Thanks to NetGalley for an advance reading copy, in exchange for an honest review.
Robert Macfarlane is a British nature writer and literary critic Educated at Nottingham High School, Pembroke College, Cambridge and Magdalen College, Oxford, he is currently a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and teaches in the Faculty of English at Cambridge.
- 496 pages
- Underland: A Deep Time Journey
- Robert Macfarlane
- 23 December 2018 Robert Macfarlane