Monday, February 18, 2013

Panama Fever: The Epic Story of One of the Greatest Human Achievements of All Time-- the Building of the Panama Canal

[September 2009] This book goes in to great detail on the 'prehistory' of the canal. The competing European and American plans and interests are well covered, as is the French canal building experience. The initial American experience (and the reptition of many French mistakes) is also well covered. Then in a few words, 5-10 years pass by and the canal is open and operating. It feels that the author ran out of time and sent the book out with only the executive summary of the last 10 chapters. Thus we know, in fairly strong detail what the French did that didn't work, but we know very little about the actual engineering behind the currently existing canal.

The part of the story that is complete also suffers from a disjointed narrative. At times the author inserts long excerpts from the journals of workers on the canal, but fails to convincingly connect them to the surrounding story. Various 'subplots', such as the plight of the West Indian workers, the Panamanian revolution and the medical efforts to eradicate mosquito-born diseases are interesting stories of there own. However, they seem to be artificially patched in to this work, rather than part of a complete narrative.

I also found the production of the audiobook to be less than stellar. The narrator occasionally tried to talk with 'accents' appropriate to the characters, though many of these felt half-hearted and annoying. (Thank goodness there were no attempts at French accents!)

No comments:

Post a Comment