Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: The Wave

Sometime last year I heard about Susan Casey's The Wave, when she was making the rounds on the talk show circuit hawking it. Having heard that it covered some of the hairy exploits of big-wave surfers, I ordered it, as I was pretty rivited by the awesome documentary Riding Giants.

The book arrived and I quickly scanned the contents and then sat it in the "to read" pile for a few months as i worked my way through a couple others.

Then the Japanese quake and tsunami happened, and I remembered that I had a book sitting on the shelf that I seemed to remember touching upon the theory that global warming both made our seas more violent and increased the probability of earthquakes and tsunamis, and I figured maybe it was a good time to go read it.

The book is a bit schizophrenic, playing both adventure and science cards, though it doesn't necessarily play them together. There are interviews with experts on climate change, storm prediction, wave dynamics, and other disciplines. In between these, the lab coat is traded in for a surfboard or a trip to ocean emergency rescue & salvage operations.

The latter of these make the book an exciting page turner. I won't go into the surfing parts in detail other than to say that the guys that voluntarily fly helicopters into storms to try and ride surfboards down the side of moving 7-story buildings are crazy, and that Laird Hamilton is either the craziest of them all, or is actually Poseidon himself.

One complaint is that the science-related portions of the book are a bit weak. Casey sought out experts to support her narrative, and didn't try to find the contrarian view to hear it out. Nevertheless, the combination is compelling. One gets the sense not just that the seas may be growing angrier, but the reader is given a palpable sense of just what that means, and of just how feeble we are to withstand mother nature when she decides to show us who's boss.

But then we've seen a lot of news footage over the past couple weeks that made that pretty obvious.

Still, the book is a good read. You'll learn a few things and be riding the edge of your seat while doing so.

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean

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