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Underground London Audio Download – Unabridged

3.3 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Format: Hardcover
This is the first book for a very long time that I simply haven't been able to put down. This should be compulsive reading for every Londoner! Stephen Smith has managed to bring to vibrant life the world beneath our concrete and glass city. History has never been so vivid with the sights and sounds of London gone by echoing in every page. The only down side is that it has made me aware of a whole world I am not allowed to be part of existing just a few metres beneath my feet (that and peering into every little door and window on the tube).
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By Mr. Joe HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 13 Feb. 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
News reporter and author Stephen Smith goes below pavement level in London, allowing the reader to vicariously explore burial crypts, dug-up plague pits, sewers, excavated Roman walls, remnants of Henry VIII's tennis courts, poncy wine cellars, secret government bunkers, the bowels of Parliament, and forgotten corners of the Tube.
For me, the the most intriguing chapter dealt with that subterranean environment most obviously accessible to the tourist, the London Underground ("Mind the Gap!"). Did you know that the most prevalent litter in the system, cleaned up during routine housekeeping between 1:00 and 5:00 AM, is human hair blown from the heads of thousands and thousands of train riders every day? Then, there are all those wallets plundered and discarded by pickpockets. And, though it won't be on my Must-Do short list for my next visit to the city, Smith's slog down the northern outflow sewer was gratifyingly informative.
However, UNDERGROUND LONDON is an uneven read. In the chapter dedicated to Anglo-Saxon artifacts, the author first describes a modern day ceremonial ritual involving holding a small schoolboy by his heels over the Thames while he beats the water's surface with a stick, and then goes on to describe the confiscated oddities to be found in the cellars of Her Majesty's Custom House. The connection between these and Anglo-Saxon period seemed forced. And the chapter in which Smith visits an underground vault of safe deposit boxes could just as well have been penned in the above-ground strong room at my local bank. No revelations there.
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Format: Hardcover
It is a very wordy book, each chapter is an essay. The type of articles you get by a broad sheet journalist who is not limited by space and not in a hurry to tell the facts. It is a different perspective. Concentrating on trips he has made to the various subjects; down the sewers, bits of Roman wall under buildings. etc.
What it does not have is any photos or maps. The lack of any maps especially I found annoying. They would have helped illustrate the articles and for the reader to find them himself.
The author must have put a lot of time into researching his data, I just found the style annoying to read.
This is a view of London you will either like or dislike.
I edged towards the latter.
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Format: Hardcover
I was very disappointed by this book. The secret world under London's streets is a potentially fascinating topic but this book contains little of that fascination. Most of it consists of chatty descriptions of guided tours taken by the author, right down to the inconsequential conversations he has with the guides. It reads like an overextended piece for a colour supplement, with very little in the way of interesting information and an awful lot of filler. If you're interested in London, there are many better books to spend your money on.
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Format: Paperback
This is not a serious book about Subterranean London. If that's your bag try Richard Tench and Ellis Hillman's book. This is a more light-hearted, journalistic piece, which wouldn't be fine if the author had a sharp eye for telling detail and the wit of a Bill Bryson. Unfortunately he is equipped with neither.

Some chapters are better than others (was I alone in wondering what the beating of the bounds - including regatta ceremony on the Thames - had to do with underground London?).

All in all it was a struggle to find enough enthusiasm to finish it. Given the errors pointed to by other readers I wonder how much garbage I assimilated in having done so.
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Format: Paperback
As an enthusiast for all things London and Subterranean, I was pleased to pick up this book as it promised an insight into areas I myself had not entered. I could not have been more dissapointed.
The prose style does nothing but irritate, and it is abundantly clear the occupation of the author is journalist. This minor niggle would have been fine were it not for the fact that all of the actual information presented by this book, ie the hard facts about dates, historical figures, and even quotes, are seemingly taken en masse from a single publication, that being the excellent "london Under Londer" by Hillman and Trench. How the book passes as original work astounds me, because being familiar with the other book I compared the two and noticed vast swathes were copied almost verbatim in lieu of proper research. And only one reference to the work in the entire text makes for a poor recognition of what must have been a vast input into Smith's work.
The bibliography itself is pretty shameful - listing a vast number of fictional works and very little meat for those wishing to read further details on the topics covered.
This book then mainly comprises of the author smugly entering the world beneath and systematically mocking those who aided him to do so. In one word: Avoid.
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