Already a huge success in England, this lengthy and at times quite academic study extends the basic argument of Hancock's 1994 Fingerprints of the Gods, a wild combination of astronomy, archeology, geology and folk myth whose worldwide success made Hancock perhaps the most popular proponent of "alternative history" as well as a publishing phenomenon. Hancock's basic thesis is simple: although mainstream scholars refuse to believe it, there once was "a lost civilization destroyed in the cataclysmic global floods that brought the last Ice Age to an end," and the survivors passed on their knowledge to the newer ancient civilizations with which we are more familiar. The search for an "Indian Atlantis" is the basis for this book, which is structured around Hancock's exploration of underwater sites near India, Japan, Taiwan and China, and in the Arabian and Mediterranean Seas. As usual, Hancock wonderfully introduces the general reader to Indian and Japanese subcultures; however, his reliance primarily on works by local alternative historians—many of whose views have been clearly refuted by other scientists—while ignoring almost anything that refutes his own thesis undercuts his credibility. In his effort to present his step-by-step discoveries in the style of a "whodunit," Hancock remains an entertaining writer and an interesting cultural journalist. But while the exploration of undersea prehistoric sites is a fascinating and ongoing research area, and Hancock's main contribution to the subject—his theories—continues to make him a successful writer, his works have been relegated to marginalia. (Nov.)
Forecast:Hancock's highly controversial view of history and his theories about "lost civilizations" have gained him an audience that will not be disappointed by
Underworld. However, this will not convert the unconverted.