Once again, I've ventured out of the sci-fi/fantasy genre...again with a book I never would have picked up on my own. I am not a diver, I know almost nothing about...the WWII related stuff...It sounds vaguely interesting, but the kind of thing I might watch on a Saturday afternoon on discovery...if I was sick...and nothing else was on.
But...this book...was really, really good. It's billed as a "True Adventure", and I'm sure it's as "based on a true story" as much of written history is... I only mean that some of the characters are so good, it seems like they can't be 100% real...I'm sure liberties were taken...but once I remembered that I usually read ONLY fiction, I didn't think about it again.
The whole thing is very well written...presented like a fast-paced action/adventure movie (that may not make sense, but it's the only way I can think of to describe it). They give exactly the right amount of information about diving and the dangers of deep wreck diving, backed up with horrifying real accounts. They give exactly the right amount of background on the main characters...no boring crap - really interesting and action packed stories... By the time they got to the diving...I couldn't put this book down...I was on the edge of my seat...
Now that all lasted for about 3/4 of the book - which is about the point any sane human being would have just "let it go", but Chatterton was obsessed. There are some more tense and exciting parts...but there is also entirely too much time devoted descriptions of the lives of non-characters... Don't let any of that stop you from getting the book though - even if you care nothing about diving or WWII history (beyond what you learned in school) - just get this one - seriously.
I'll admit, I'd never have picked this up without someone repeatedly prodding me to do so...but I'm really glad I did. I mostly read/listen to sci-fi/fantasy, so I'm skeptical about anything non-fiction...if I wanted non-fiction I'd watch the flippin' news (is about how my poor attitude would respond...) - but this story is good...hard to put the feeling into words - kind of intriguing and horrifying...on many levels. Not just the...main tragedy part - but what makes someone want to do this...the normal things they do...that they don't consider tragedies...from the catching and processing of whales, to the stuff that happens on the islands (like the Galapagos)...my god...
If you already know the story of the Essex, there probably isn't a ton of new info - but still worth the listen. If you don't know the story that was part of Melville's inspiration for Moby Dick, you should probably pick this one up!
Although I usually love books that introduce me to the obsessions of others, this book--which seems aimed at men enamored with machines and World War II history--focuses a bit TOO much on tedious details. Spoiler warning: Not much is ever actually discovered in the wreck of the German U-boat itself, which, after the incredible the build-up, was disappointing. I did gain new appreciation for the horrible risks involved in deep-sea diving and serving in the German Navy on a U-Boat assigned to the United States. But I'm sure I'd have been equally enlightened had I chosen the abridged version.