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About the Author

Susan Casey is the editor in chief of O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the former editor in chief of Sports Illustrated Women and former development editor of Time Inc. She is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Esquire, Sports show more Illustrated, Fortune, Outside, and National Geographic. She has written several books including The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks and Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by Susan Casey

Associated Works

Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave (2007) — Contributor — 64 copies, 6 reviews
The Best American Magazine Writing 2007 (2007) — Contributor — 61 copies, 1 review
Fangoria Horror Magazine #4, February 1980 (1980) — Contributor — 4 copies


2011 (16) adventure (38) animals (42) audio (13) audiobook (10) biology (14) California (29) climate change (12) dolphins (26) ebook (12) environment (10) Farallon Islands (18) Farallones (10) global warming (15) great white sharks (18) Hawaii (18) history (21) Kindle (16) marine biology (14) memoir (11) natural history (20) nature (79) non-fiction (260) ocean (34) oceanography (49) oceans (32) read (14) read in 2011 (10) rogue waves (16) San Francisco (17) science (121) Science & Nature (10) sea (11) sharks (87) surfing (71) survival (9) to-read (147) travel (17) waves (32) wildlife (12)

Common Knowledge

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
O: The Oprah Magazine



Susan Casey's The Underworld, a book about deep sea exploration, has received rave reviews, but I found myself underwhelmed. Substantively, her book contains very little information that isn't already online: this is not new information, but old material, presented newly. Unfortunately, this leads to two major shortcomings.

First, the chief value she adds to existing information is a series of in-depth interviews with people engaged in exploring and studying the deep sea. Her interviews, however, border on hagiographic - in fact, she goes out of her way to dismiss and defend some of them against serious concerns about the colonial nature of their endeavours, instead of taking these arguments seriously, as they ought to be. It feels as though she uncritically accepts and believes anything she's told: her scepticism is reserved only for a museum docent who mansplains, she says, and has nothing to do with the subject material of the book. I'm not the only one to feel this way: in the Scientific American, a review notes that "Although Casey pays lip service to Vescovo's critics, The Underworld would have benefited from a more thorough examination of ocean exploration's politics and power dynamics. In the 21st century, must our most celebrated adventurers remain impossibly rich white guys?" https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/todays-deep-sea-explorers-are-mineral... It is particularly acute when you realise that Vescovo, a rich hobbyist explorer who receives fulsome praise from Casey, is also known for doing reckless solo dives and freewheeling on safety precautions. After the Triton sub incident, and the vast amount of public funds expended on attempting to rescue the rich and reckless, can we afford to be so flippant about the subject?

Second, when you have no new research to contribute, but you write an essay, the expectation is that you write in a manner that presents the information lucidly, in a way that is engaging to the reader, and a pleasure to read. Otherwise, you're writing a high school science report. I found her writing passable at best, and often amateurish, bordering on egregious. Debris around the wreck of the Titanic is described as a "piƱata of tragedy". When she's not being flippantly funny, she's buried deep in the purplest of prose, as though she had never come across an adjective or a cliche she didn't immediately want to insert in her book. Perhaps I'm being a little harsh - it's clear that she's passionate about the ocean, cares deeply about conservation, and loves the water. Still, when the quality of nature writing is set to a high bar by authors like Helen MacDonald, Robin Wall Kimmerer, or Camille Dungy, it's hard to accept this level of glib, uncritical pedestrian prose. I'm sure Booktok will enjoy it.
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rv1988 | 3 other reviews | Apr 30, 2024 |
I love finding out all the stuff we don't know yet. And the ocean is so unexplored it's mind numbing. This was clearly written just before the Titan disaster last year, so there's no commentary on that. I'm thinking the author would be sympathetic to their cause though. It's a difficult tug of war between wanting to know everything about the ocean and wanting to leave it undisturbed and alive.
KallieGrace | 3 other reviews | Feb 27, 2024 |
This book was a fast read and felt more like a thriller than a scientific book. I found it fascinating reading about the power of the ocean and giant waves. Imagining is fine for me because I would never want to see one in person unless assured I could view it from a safe distance! It still amazes me that there is so much unknown about the whole phenomena of waves and the ocean itself. Much of the book focuses on surfers and their experiences searching for and riding "terrifyingly large waves of seventy and eight feet." Utter craziness!… (more)
ellink | 77 other reviews | Jan 22, 2024 |



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