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Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral…

Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal…

by Simon Winchester

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In his inimitable way, Simon Winchester sets out to prove the vast importance of the Pacific Ocean, not only in the past and present, but in our future. For the most part, he succeeds.

The size of the Pacific Ocean is immense and almost beyond our reckoning. It is the source of the world's weather and has survived atomic bombs, transistors, and the abysmal treatment of its native peoples. Winchester takes us on a mesmerizing journey from one end of the Pacific to the other, from east to west and north to south, with lots of stops on tiny islands and archipelagos along the way.

Winchester has been one of my favorite non-fiction writers since his unforgettable The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. He's opened my eyes to many things and encouraged me to read deeper into many of the subjects he brings to light. However, I have to admit that I am concerned about an error I found while reading this particular book. In it, Winchester talks about traveling up the Mississippi River past the city of Des Moines. I did some research in an attempt to discover if my memory had blown a fuse, but it hadn't. Des Moines is certainly not on the banks of the Mississippi River between Hannibal and St. Louis, Missouri, as stated in his book, and that's what has me concerned. If a simple yet glaring mistake like that can make its way to the final edition of the published book, how many other errors made it through, too? And if there are errors in this book, what about his others? One city in the wrong place can cause so much harm. ( )
  cathyskye | Nov 27, 2017 |
Sorry to have to say but this is a collection of disjointed essays that fail to engage. Had the distinct feeling that this was the author just churning out another book on a subject (and sub-subjects) he's covered before. Other reviewers cover the chapter contents if you want to persevere. A book to take out of the library, not worth purchasing as I doubt anyone would pick it up for a second read. ( )
  pbjwelch | Jul 25, 2017 |
This book is as massive as its title. Winchester chooses 10 seemingly random events and uses them to talk about a wide variety of situations and issues related to life in and around the Pacific Ocean. For example, the invention of the transistor radio is a springboard to talk about how Japan became a technological powerhouse in the second half of the 20th century, and one undersea dive by a submersible craft named Alvin launches a discussion of the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the sea, and what the creatures that live in these vents add to our knowledge of how life developed on Earth. It is a long book and does require perseverance, but I found a great deal of interest, especially in the chapter on the Korean War. If you liked Atlantic, you’ll probably like this one, too. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jun 27, 2017 |
I have read a couple of other books by this author, and he did an outstanding job of laying out the history of what happened. Krakatoa, and The Professor and The Madman, to name two.
I hesitated buying Pacific because the topic seemed far too broad to be covered in one single book, but it was in paperback and so I picked it up. Well the topic isn't to broad if you start when America becomes a superpower up to today and blame the majority of what is wrong with the world and specifically everything bad that has happened in the Pacific on America.
The author can write, of that there is no debate. But if you are going to write about history, I really don't need to constantly be berated by the author's beliefs and point of view. I get it, Mr Winchester, you are a hardcore liberal, to whom nearly every bad thing that has happened certainly as it pertains to the pacific can be blamed on America. Not surprising coming from a pompous British socialist, but kind of surprising since you now live in America. I am sorry Mr Winchester but the sun set long ago on the disaster known as the British empire. Try not to forget that had America not come to your rescue, Twice, your country would be a quaint island in the German empire.
You get a taste of the authors intense left leanings in the prologue when he states he once had a secret sympathy for N Korea who had plotted their own path to economic and cultural independence.
Thanks to this book I now know it was wrong for America to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese, wrong to continue to develop nuclear weapons WRONG to test them, and that the Cold War was a horrible horrible time because well because it was. Even though we never had the much predicted nuclear war that liberals kept saying would happen. Was the nuclear program of Russia and America an enormous waste of money? Yes. Does anyone truly believe the Russians would not build bombs if America stoped building them? NO.
Also sprinkled throughout the book, anywhere the author can attempt to blame or state it, claim a link, or a causality, is his total acceptance of climate change specifically mans contribution to it. Again he is entitled to his beliefs but I don't need to be reminded of it, over and over again.
So to recap: America is bad, nuclear weapons and the testing of them is bad, and climate change is the result of man. Immigration and immigrants need to be taken in by countries like Australia and America because, well they just need to be, no matter how incompatible the immigrants with be for the country.
Thanks Simon.
This would have been such a better book if the author had left out his opinions, formulated with hindsight, and stuck to telling what happened. But every chapter contains the author's feelings and beliefs, which, when I am reading history, I don't care about the author's beliefs, unless you state them as such, (the author doesn't he just adds them to the narrative as if it is common sense or a known fact) and you are in some way an expert. Which as far as I can tell you are not an expert.
Lastly his simplistic handling of a number of issues cited, not least of which when he questions wether China wouldn't be a better protector of the pacific than the United States, is outright laughable, and makes the reader wonder if the happy little socialist author isn't also becoming senile. ( )
  zmagic69 | Jan 3, 2017 |
This book was a selection for the monthly nonfiction read at the North Bellmore Public Library on Long Island This was well received. There are lot of things covered in this book and many are quite fascinating and not often covered by substantial books. Outside the wide geographic coherence of the Pacific Ocean, there is no thread that pulls everything together and there is less on South America. Winchester, though, is an engaging writer as he darts about this vast territory and found items to arrest our attention. ( )
  vpfluke | Sep 17, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062315412, Hardcover)

Following his acclaimed Atlantic and The Men Who United the States, New York Times bestselling author Simon Winchester offers an enthralling biography of the Pacific Ocean and its role in the modern world, exploring our relationship with this imposing force of nature.

As the Mediterranean shaped the classical world, and the Atlantic connected Europe to the New World, the Pacific Ocean defines our tomorrow. With China on the rise, so, too, are the American cities of the West coast, including Seattle, San Francisco, and the long cluster of towns down the Silicon Valley.

Today, the Pacific is ascendant. Its geological history has long transformed us—tremendous earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis—but its human history, from a Western perspective, is quite young, beginning with Magellan’s sixteenth-century circumnavigation. It is a natural wonder whose most fascinating history is currently being made.

In telling the story of the Pacific, Simon Winchester takes us from the Bering Strait to Cape Horn, the Yangtze River to the Panama Canal, and to the many small islands and archipelagos that lie in between. He observes the fall of a dictator in Manila, visits aboriginals in northern Queensland, and is jailed in Tierra del Fuego, the land at the end of the world. His journey encompasses a trip down the Alaska Highway, a stop at the isolated Pitcairn Islands, a trek across South Korea and a glimpse of its mysterious northern neighbor.

Winchester’s personal experience is vast and his storytelling second to none. And his historical understanding of the region is formidable, making Pacific a paean to this magnificent sea of beauty, myth, and imagination that is transforming our lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 26 Jul 2015 05:14:48 -0400)

The New York Times best-selling author of The Men Who United the States traces the geological history of the Pacific Ocean to assess its relationship with humans and indelible role in the modern world.

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