Reading this the first time I wasn’t too sure what to think. It seemed like science with a lot of literary aspirations – aka creative nonfiction. But the second time round I realized that this is a travelogue! Macfarlane is describing his world travels and emphasizing 11 journeys. The focus of these trips is to explore the “underland” of the title. This means he goes to caves and tunnels and under the ocean. He explores and investigates these places taking time to meditate and reflect on them.
Underland: A Deep Time Journey
By Robert Macfarlane
Read by Matthew Waterson 12h 3m
Rating: 8.75 / travelogue
Different places have categorized this book differently – sometimes science/engineering and sometimes science/nature and I saw adventure but I also saw travelogue. Personally I’d call it a travelogue – travelogues can be meditative. And it’s creative nonfiction.
Macfarlane wanders around the world, finding assistants and going for adventures in the hidden tunnels of Paris etc. He spends a lot of time in places around England including Epping Forest and the Mendips. Then there’s Slovenia and Finland and Greenland and that’s only maybe half of the places he describes.
And he talks about burying things (like people) and hiding things (from jewels to radioactive materials) and finding things (like oil and treasure) and burying more things like bodies and, again, treasures. He talks about a lot of danger and great hiking buddies.
And there’s the “Deep Time” part. He goes from Neanderthals to the far future when we understand that the safe-keeping of dangerous materials for great sans of time is vital. But he sticks to this moment when he describes a sunset.
I enjoyed it for the most part. Sometimes he got a bit too detailed in the mechanics but there were times he got too drifty in the poetry of his responses.
This is a book I would never have read without a reading group – go join one.