A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet
Written by: Will Hunt
Read by: Will Hunt
6 Hours and 42 Minutes
PRHA | Imprint: Random House Audio
Genre: History – Historical Geography
Release Date: January 29, 2019
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
A panoramic investigation of the subterranean landscape, from sacred caves and derelict subway stations to nuclear bunkers and ancient underground cities—an exploration of the history, science, architecture, and mythology of the worlds beneath our feet
When Will Hunt was sixteen years old, he discovered an abandoned tunnel that ran beneath his house in Providence, Rhode Island. His first tunnel trips inspired a lifelong fascination with exploring underground worlds, from the derelict subway stations and sewers of New York City to the sacred caves, catacombs, and tombs, from bunkers to ancient underground cities in more than twenty countries around the world. Underground is both a personal exploration of Hunt’s obsession and a panoramic study of how we are all connected to the underground, how caves and other dark hollows have frightened and enchanted, repelled and captivated, us through the ages.
In a narrative spanning continents and epochs, Hunt follows a cast of subterranea-philes who have dedicated themselves to investigating underground worlds. He tracks the origins of life with a team of NASA microbiologists a mile beneath the Black Hills, camps out for three days with urban explorers in the catacombs and sewers of Paris, descends with an Aboriginal family into a 35,000-year-old sacred mine in the Australian outback, follows a ghostlike graffiti artist writing stories in the subway tunnels of New York, and glimpses a sacred sculpture molded by Paleolithic artists in the depths of a cave in the Pyrenees.
Each adventure is woven with findings in mythology and anthropology, natural history and neuroscience, literature and philosophy. In elegant and graceful prose, Hunt cures us of our “surface chauvinism,” opening our eyes to the planet’s hidden dimension. He reveals how the subterranean landscape gave shape to our most basic beliefs, including how we think about ourselves as humans. At bottom, Underground is a meditation on the allure of darkness, the power of mystery, and our eternal desire to connect with what we cannot see. https://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/240262/underground/
When I was a child, I was fascinated with caves after a school trip to Howe Caverns in upstate New York. They were fascinating with an underground river and crystalline stalactites and stalagmites. But, as I grew up, and developed a more squeamish nature, I ceased to be curious about what mysteries were available beneath my feet.
Starting in childhood this author and explorer has been fascinated by the subterranean: caves, tunnels, tombs, and even sewers. As he grew up, though, he maintained his interest in the subterranean world. And, he delves beyond his interest to research how religion, anthropology, ecology, and evolution are intertwined with the world underground.
Usually, I really like it when an author of non-fiction narrates the work. It usually transmits the energy and enthusiasm of the author for the subject. I found Hunt’s voice droning and monotonous. While there was some interesting narrative the narration itself made the subject less interesting.
With dirt and such not being my favorite things I had a hard time getting invested in the book. The information is all well researched; the guy really did his homework. There were some interesting nuggets of information about human evolution and why the Mayan culture more or less disappeared (I thought that was still a huge mystery). I failed to understand the inclusion of one section about a graffiti artist.
In the end, though the book did little to get me interested in the subject. I thought the anthropology would grab me more. Actually, bats, sewers and tombs are probably a surefire way to turn me off. And, if you are interested in caves and tunnels and how people relate to “what lies beneath,” then you may love this.