Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Simon Winchester uses the Pacific Ocean as a central theme to discuss a number of events that happened since 1950 (the "present" of Before Present time). Many of the events involve the military - the nuclear tests on Bikini Island, the division of Korea, and the growth of Chinese power on the Pacific. The environment is discussed, both in the context of newly discovered species in deep sulfuric trenches as well as climate change's impacts on coral and the "garbage" vortex.

There are also stories of the business and culture, including the rise of Sony and the building of the Sydney Opera house.

Intertwined with these stories is the plight of the people that call the pacific home - especially the Polynesian and Micronesian inhabitants of the pacific islands. They are often given faint mention in the rhetoric of the western world. The Bikini islanders lost their homeland due to the nuclear tests and the contamination of the land. Many Polynesians still live on their islands, but have lost their traditional lifestyle and navigation skills due to the advances of western civilization. Many islands are in further danger of being submerged due to sea level rises.

Winchester has a unique writing style. He loves to add details from personal experience and loves to dive into details of seemingly random topics. He will also use a narrow thread to string together a set of seemingly unrelated stories. It is not your typical linear writing style, but is a nice refreshing, entertaining style.

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