Cover Image: Sunken Lands

Sunken Lands

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Member Reviews

I was surprised by the lack of imagery for such a visual topic and travel book. It would have been nice to have more photos or illustrations as references, I felt like I was missing something. The historical stories and myths were the most engaging in my opinion. It's an interesting way to talk about climate change and seems less depressing as an issue.

*Provided a DRC (digital review copy) from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.

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Amazing concept and interesting book, although I was a bit disappointed in the lack of imagery, a topic like this is the ideal opportunity to bring a little mystery and wonder into the mix.

That aside, a must read for anyone who thinks climate change is a joke. The world is changing, and the human race isn't going to like the changes.

3 and a half stars rounded down to 3.

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Sunken Lands was a good book, although I have to admit it turned out not to be quite what I was expecting from it. Judging by the blurb I thought it'd be more history-based, but it really just uses the idea of sunken places as a springboard to discuss wetlands, climate, and other such things. Which is not a bad thing - this is a good book, as I said. Rees writes engagingly and with humanity. This isn't a dry (no pun intended) nonfiction read, but one that will keep you interested throughout.

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“We have to be afraid of water and fire, like our ancestors 40,000 years ago. That’s very difficult for people to understand.”
The premise of this book really intrigued me. I am interested in history, especially ancient history, so I was excited to read this book. The first part of the book felt a little disjointed to me. The author kept bouncing back and forth between ancient history in England, ancient myths/legends, and then brings the reader to a present-day narrative. This narrative is interspersed with snippets about his personal life. In my opinion, it just didn’t flow very well.
Another point the author mentions frequently is climate change. I was a little surprised with how often this theme was mentioned. The synopsis of the book did not accurately reflect the amount of time that would be spent talking about this politically charged topic.
I enjoyed the later half of the book the most, particularly when the author spent time in New Orleans. New Orleans is ripe with stories about voodoo, witchcraft, and fantastic tales. He included some very intriguing stories.

I received this book as an ARC. Thank you to NetGalley and Elliott and Thompson for the chance to review this book.

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I believe reviews should at the very least let a reader know if a book is for them. In that spirit, let me state something up front. I don't care what your views on climate change are. I have my own, yours may be different, or maybe you don't care at all. You should know that Gareth Rees in Sunken Lands is going to mention it frequently. Rees agrees with people who believe that we humans are destroying the planet. If you do not believe this, I do not think you will like this book. If you are a part of this group, I thank you for your time and you may exit this review now. I appreciate you reading this far!

Ok, still with me? Great! Sunken Lands to me was a book of thirds. One third is looking at the history of an area which is now or about to be, sunken. Each chapter focuses (with a lot of diversions) on one particular area. I love this third. This third is really good. Ancient stories about civilizations as they fought flood waters? Sign me up!

Another third is climate change. Rees is passionate about it and cites plenty of sources. I didn't find this to be particularly effective because it felt like he was only preaching to the converted. His sources are not fully investigated but just referenced quickly and then forgotten a paragraph later. As mentioned before, I don't think it is effective enough to change someone's mind and for those who agree with him, it seems like overkill. This can be a central conceit in the introduction and not brought up again.

The final third is a real mixed bag and these are the diversions. This includes a discussion of Rees' divorce, his band, The Pet Shop Boys (yes, really), and a psychic. I say "mixed bag" because Rees' prose sounds almost poetic. His narrative of his divorce is short but effective. His emotions show through. The psychic? It completely took me out of the flow of the book and left me wondering why it was in here at all.

I think this would have been a much stronger book with a little bit more focus. There are many good stories within the book, but you have to wade through too many distractions as you discover them.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Elliot & Thompson Books.)

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Travels, literal and otherwise, to places claimed by the waters in legend, (pre)history and recent memory, from Doggerland and Lyonesse to Dunwich and New Orleans. Also those which took the opposite trip, such as swathes of East Anglia, though of course the signs are that they'll be back down there soon enough, and won't be wanting for company on the trip. Initially I was wondering what possessed me to request this from Netgalley; yes, I've liked some of Rees' previous work, but like him I'm terribly prone to climate anxiety, and all these tales of drowned kingdoms interleaved with dire warnings for our own future are exactly the sort of thing which would normally set me off. Somehow, though, here I found a weird consolation, perhaps simply in the long view of it all, the notion that maybe in a few millennia we'll survive in folk tales as glorious and inaccurate as those of Atlantis or the Lowland Hundred. Nice to have something to look forward to, eh? Even if the caution against hubris encoded in so many of those tales appears to have been precisely sod-all use in dissuading us from the exact same mistake. Alas, at the end he blew it, talking about a reminder of how much his own life has changed over the past couple of decades, but embracing that mutability because "for every loss there was a gain" - a residual insistence on cosmic fairness which I can't accept, not when recent years have brought so many more losses than gains.

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“Sunken Lands” Gareth E. Rees

An interesting book on the mythology and history of flooded places around the world. It was so interesting, and I loved all the information in the book, but I really wanted more pictures. More eerie pictures would have added so much more atmosphere to the stories that were told. 2 out of 5 stars.

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In Sunken Lands the author takes us on a journey of discovery through places that have disappeared and those that may vanish in the not too distant future. Some of the places are looked at through legend, myth and oral histories. Others are discovered through the remnants left behind. The author has long had a fascination with drowned places and his interest and enthusiasm come over clearly in this book. The chapters look at various places and/or legends of flooded places and what may or may not have caused them. The author looks at what people affected by those floods may have felt. He also looks at what may be to come in the ebb and flow of Earth's cycles.

I found the first chapter fascinating. It provides an excellent overview of some 20000 years of Earth's climate history and natural disasters from the Elder Dryas to relatively modern times. Ice ages, earthquakes, floods and tsunamis feature as well as possible comet impacts. Actual evidence is considered as well as legends which can often be a form of oral history. I certainly did not know that there are some 2000 known global flood stories. From here the author goes on to explain the origins of his fascination with floods and flooded lands. These obvious illustrations of the ebb and flow of the Earth leads to some thoughts on "extreme" events that may occur in the future.

Most of the remaining chapters look at specific geographical areas. In many cases the author explores the areas himself. It is fair to say that not every chapter had the impact that the first chapter did however a number of them worked very well. I will highlight a couple of those. As someone who has lived in and explored parts of the western sides of England and Wales I found it easy to relate to the stories of these areas. I'd include in that the Celtic aspects - including those of Brittany. The geography of the world as we are used to seeing it is relatively recent in a world time sense. Our island was attached to the continent and Ireland for quite long periods of time. Certainly the land we now know extended further west. This means that legends of land between Ireland and Wales that was flooded is almost certainly true. Equally the Isles of Scilly are simply the remaining remnants of a larger landmass to the west. The chapters about these I really enjoyed.

Drawing this book to a close the two last chapters look at "now" and some thoughts about the future in addition to giving something of an overview of the book. For me this seem to bring the whole book back together very well. It's fair to say that this is an agenda involved in this book although I didn't feel it was being inflicted on me. It is not a book that climate change deniers will probably want to read. I feel it is a book best approached with an open mind. Over many centuries at least to our knowledge sea levels have risen and fallen for a variety of reasons. Evidence of that is clearly laid out here. It's a book that takes a "long view" of our world and its changes.

Aspects of this book I really loved. There is no question that for me the chapters that involved the author's travels were most interesting and probably particularly the UK sections of the book. However that is probably simply my bias and others will find different parts that will interest them. I found this a very rewarding and thought provoking read.

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When I read the book description of this book, I half expected just an archeological list, with descriptions, of some of the sunken lands that have been discovered. I got so much more, and yet in some ways less than what I expected. Sunken Lands is a journey through the past and a look at a future that seems somehow inevitable. It is illustrated by short vignettes about some of the sunken lands showing what the people who lived in that time might have seen as the waters consumed their homes, followed by an intimate exploration of the authors past experiences with that land and a view of the future through the lens of the past. The archeology I expected is not really there, but the views shown are thought provoking and make me contemplate a future in which the inevitable sea rise will sink even more land and cities beneath the waters.

I enjoyed this book in some ways, but it also was a bit disturbing due to the future it illustrated. It is a very thought provoking book.

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Rees text readers on a tour of the history, both his own, and the history of worlds that have been lost beneath the waves. Fascinating, travelogue and history of forgotten places long lost to time.

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