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Very Good But Not Up To Date
on 21 July 2015
Carson is most famous for Silent Spring, a warning against the use of DDT and its effect on ecosystems.
This lesser-known book is very evocatively written and as such I echo the higher-starred reviews. However I knock off two stars for two reasons.
First and by far the most important is the relevance or up-to-dateness of the book. Carson wrote the book in 1951, at a time when many key discoveries in oceanography were still around the corner: she updated it in 1961, but even then acceptance of Wegener's continental drift theory (to take just one example) was still waiting in the wings, A "new new" edition was prepared by the addition of a 1989 afterword from a more modern perspective, but that's still 26 years old now, which is a lifetime in terms of modern marine science. Finally it is sold as a "new edition" (should that be "new new new"?) - but note the fact that this "special edition" dates from 1997, so that's still 18 years old, and nothing has been updated since 1989. Please do not get me wrong: the original book still has many insights and is written in a warm and evocative style which many will find elevating. However Oxford University Press are stil printing this book as if it was actually an up-to-date version. That's not altogether honest practice in my opinion.
Secondly, this being a retread of a retread, the proofreading is not good, particularly of the afterword chapter which gives the impression of being slung together in haste without the help of proofing or even copy-editing. This detracts from the overall enjoymernt of the book since the afterword is (naturally) the last thing you read, and the impression of the rather ordinary prose and poor preparation obliterates that of Carson's moody and liquid text.
However Carson's is still an excellent text and I should mention that Carson's coverage of past exploration, theories and discoveries is very good for a beginner such as myself. Despite the faults the afterword is a useful catch-up - however a proper "Special Edition" would be to reissue it with a new afterword bringing it up to date to 2015.