Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting subject, annoyingly written, 17 July 2010
This review is from: Crude: The Story of Oil (Paperback)
This could have been a great book.

Oil is a truly amazing substance, a critical resource for our (current) way of life, and just about one of the most controversial subjects a book could be written about.

Why then did this book leave me unsatisfied and irritated?

Shah's unrelenting piousness and whingeing negativity plays a big part in it. She seems determined to grind her readers down rather than bring them with her.

Throughout the book she never sways from a rigid single point of view: all oil companies are evil, people who drive cars are stupid and short-sighted and greedy, the world's been manipulated in to dependency on oil as a result of a global conspiracy by multinational companies, oil is bad, anything but oil is good... etc etc.

The author has an annoying habit of illustrating her points by making comparisons, but not comparing like with like and not explaining the full picture. Shah's a sucker for a sound bite.

In one example, Shah seems to imply that we should all cycle from London to Scotland rather than catch the nasty oil-guzzling train. Shah cites the energy outlay required to do a one mile journey on a bicycle (20 kilocalories). She then compares this favourably to the energy required per passenger for a one mile journey by train (210 kilocalories). Wow. Great headline figure. But what Shah doesn't say is that the train is able to travel much faster and much greater distances than the bicycle, to the point that the two modes of transport are pretty much incomparable.

But aside from the dogmatism and dodgy use of statistics, its Shah's continual use of emotionally loaded language to describe simple things that got me most irritated. For example, the process of getting oil out of the ground is rarely described simply as extracted, drilled or mined, it's inevitably `bled', `prised', `sucked dry' or `pillaged'.

Maybe Shah's intention with Crude is to provoke readers to see the light, to leap up and join their nearest climate camp. But it didn't work for me. I just got irritated and bored and ended up leaving this book at the bottom of my (plastic) bag.
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