Wednesday, August 20, 2008

REVIEW: The Mysterious Receding Seas

Title: The Mysterious Receding Seas
Author: Richard Guy
ISBN: 9781413439915
Rating: A+ for Idea, F for Execution

First Line: This is a book about levels, all sorts of levels.

Structural engineer Richard Guy is a man on a mission. While most of the people on the planet believe the Earth is static, Guy believes the world is actually expanding, and as a result the seas are receding. When I read a blurb about this book in an issue of Shelf Awareness, I was immediately intrigued. The publisher was giving away free copies, so I asked for one.

We're taught in school that the size of the Earth never changes. That plate tectonics are pushing the continents further and further apart. When it was discovered that the Atlantic Ocean was becoming larger, scientists didn't seem to care. They assumed that the Pacific was shrinking and balancing it all out. Then they found out that the Pacific was growing larger, too. How did they explain that? Well...there are subduction zones underneath the areas where two plates meet. One plate slides under the other, is melted and recycled. But is it really true that the Earth never changes size? Guy doesn't think so. He believes passionately in Earth Expansion. The Earth isn't static, it is growing. As a result of ever-increasing land masses, the seas are receding. Why else would Sindbad the Sailor set sail from Baghdad when today Baghdad is 350 miles from the sea? Why else would Plymouth Rock be over 30 feet above the high tide line when it's supposed to mark the spot where the Pilgrims first stepped foot in the New World? Guy compares ancient maps to new, and what he says makes a lot of sense. I've never been 100% behind global warming. I think a lot of what's going on is due to the natural forces of the planet. However, I don't think we should continue on our present path. Why be in a hurry to drive nails in our own coffin? (Granted, this is all going to take thousands of years, but we should keep future generations in mind.) Yes, Guy does make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, reading The Mysterious Receding Seas was one of the most excruciatingly painful reading experiences I've had in years.

This book isn't going to make his case, and I'll give a few reasons why. Shoddy editing is at the top of the list. (I'm not going to list page numbers with most of the following examples, but I could.) There are instances of parentheses being used when quotation marks are needed. Page 36 is really page 37, and vice versa. The average paragraph length is seven pages. There are several instances of plural nouns with singular verbs, and on one page, Guy states that the New Madrid earthquake which made the Mississippi River run backwards occurred in 1911-1912 with no loss of life. (It occurred in 1811-1812.) In a book of this type, you would also expect a bibliography or an appendix in the back so you would be guided further in reading on the subject. Nothing. These are far from being the only errors or omissions, and they all could've been taken care of with proper editing.

Another reason why this book isn't going to further his cause is this: Richard Guy is not a writer. His tone often sounds desperate, as if he believes he has to pound each of his points into his reader's head. Anyone who's educated enough to find this subject fascinating (as I do) does not need such a heavy hand. One of my English professors would've told Guy that, in this book, he used a scatter gun when he really needed a rifle. In each chapter, he makes his point and then repeats it all over again in the last couple of pages. Not only that, but he repeats himself again in succeeding chapters. As I said, this book was painful to read. The only reason why I finished it was because I believe he has a very valid, interesting point to make. I'm just afraid he did himself more harm than good.

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