Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey

Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey combines fast paced narrative and in-depth expository writing in one lengthy work.  Based on a true account, as the subtitle indicates, this book is the true saga of "One Engineering Marvel, Five men, and a Disaster Ten Miles Into the Darkness".  One word of caution, those readers looking for quick, easy summer reading for the beach should look elsewhere.  Full of facts, as well as social, political and historical background information-this book makes for intense reading and is not a casual choice for one expecting to complete a novel in two days.

This book is the produce of intense research and investigation, on the part of the author, Neil Swidey, who devoted painstaking effort to provide the reader with every last biographical detail of the five heroes as well as the fine technical details of high risk engineering project miles under the sea. The writing is newspaperesque at times, in which the author objectively explains the events.  The science behind the mission is thoroughly detailed.  There is even a technical detailed, labeled illustration of the project.  Furthermore, the author goes into the detailed science behind hypoxia and oxygen deprivation that even a layman can understand.  The minute detail of oxygen deprivation miles under the sea, combined with the exciting, frantic dialog of the men in danger makes for some interesting, fast paced reading.  For example, on page 162, Swidey discusses the biology and psychology of oxygen deprivation: "When the body fails to get enough oxygen.... the first sign is usually frustration.  Then comes a fogginess.... marked by impaired judgement and reduced motor skills.  If nothing is done to restore the oxygen supply, the hypoxia will lead to unconsciousness and then inexorably death" page 162 The vivid description of oxygen deprivation is continued on page 200 in a fascinating description of the brain, and the higher need for oxygen in response to stress.  "After enough oxygen deprivation...[the] brain cells simply die" (page 200), analogous to a candle that simply flickers out.  This explanation is provided alongside an intense scene where the men's lives are endangered and right before a dramatic scene where one of the men calls out "Man Down!" (page 202)and  contemplates a risky but futile rescue effort for one of his found buddies in respiratory arrest. 

This book spans its coverage years before the disaster and the years following as well.  The author discusses general principles of risk and responsibility.  This is not like a quick fictionalized adaption of a dramatic story.  This 418 book includes a detailed notes and appendix as if it were a reference book.  In fact this would make good reading material for a college student doing sociological or technical research into a monumental. ambitious project, Boston's treatment plant and 10 mile underwater tunnel.  For anyone who has ever read a book and just wanted to "know More" of every detail, then this book is a perfect choice.  For those looking for a simple quick choice- those readers will most likely not be able to trudge through the first chapters. As a blogger I received a copy of this book published by Crown publishers, a division of Penguin Random House Publishing company, for the purpose of writing this review.

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