Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers

Simon Winchester. Harper, $28.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-06-231541-0
Earth’s largest ocean inspires expansive ruminations from renowned British journalist Winchester (The Map That Changed the World) in this far-ranging but unfocused and overwrought meditation on recent geo-history. Winchester spotlights post-WWII episodes that crystallize an increasingly Pacific-centered modernity: atomic testing at Bikini Atoll and the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo symbolize the horrors of the Cold War; the 1972 burning of the liner Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong harbor symbolizes the sunset of Western imperialism; Sony Corp.’s development of transistor radios symbolizes the rising Asian industrial colossus; typhoons and bleached coral reefs symbolize the threat of climate change; the surfing movie Gidget symbolizes the globalization of Hawaii’s dolce vita. Winchester’s organizing principle—things that happen in or around the Pacific—yields little thematic coherence beyond platitudes such as “There is just one world.” The “unchallengeable superlative” of his oceanic subject stimulates his own limitless penchant for hyperbole and lurid metaphor: one surfboard manufacturer is called “powerful beyond imagination,” and he describes a wrecked warship’s cannons “lolling out of their upended casements like the tongues of the hanged Mussolinis.” Still, Winchester’s vigorous prose and tireless dragnetting of interesting lore make this an entertaining read. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/27/2015
Release date: 10/27/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 496 pages - 978-0-00-755075-3
Ebook - 512 pages - 978-0-06-231543-4
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-00-755076-0
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-242006-0
Paperback - 720 pages - 978-0-06-242163-0
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4676-1950-9
Compact Disc - 978-0-06-242007-7
Compact Disc - 978-0-06-256229-6
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-06-231542-7
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