NEUTRAL BUOYANCY: Adventures in a Liquid World

Tim Ecott, Author . Grove/Atlantic $26 (345p) ISBN 978-0-87113-794-4

Plunging off the shores of Florida, Australia, the Western Pacific islands and other coastal locales, BBC world service reporter and producer—and certified dive-master—Ecott provides a fascinating, albeit uncritical, look at the fast-growing world of undersea diving. Vivid descriptions of what's to be seen show skeptics what they're missing: coral as green as a "fine piece of carved jade," as scarlet as a "humming-bird feather" and as pink as the "petals of a carnation in a buttonhole." Along the way, he recounts the history of the sport, which has grown from a risky enterprise practiced by a brave few to a far more mainstream, increasingly high-tech recreational endeavor. In interviews, the sport's pioneers (crusty individualists, not surprisingly) express some resentment toward Jacques Cousteau; they believe he stole glory due others. Though Ecott at times suggests discomfort with the diving world's competitive ethos, he seems reluctant to criticize it outright or to question the sport's cult of extreme risk-taking. And while mindful of the sport's dangers (in one particularly terrifying incident, Ecott nearly dies in the English Channel), he emphasizes its spiritual appeal: the title refers to a state of equilibrium that scuba divers aspire to—a feeling of weightlessness. Agent, Natasha Fairweather of A.P. Watt. (July)

Forecast:Ecott's journalistic acumen—his pieces have appeared in Esquire, the Economist, National Geographic and elsewhere—makes this an above-average look into a microculture. Lifestyle magazine coverage, plus word-of-mouth recommendations or summer-oriented displays, will lead fans and curious readers alike to this title.

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
Paperback - 345 pages - 978-0-14-028730-1
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-8021-3907-8
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