Underland
From the best-selling, award-winning author of Landmarks and The Old Ways, a haunting voyage into the planet’s past and future.Hailed as "the great nature writer of this generation" (Wall Street Journal), Robert Macfarlane is the celebrated author of books about the intersections of the human and the natural realms. In Underland, he delivers his masterpiece: an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself.In this highly anticipated sequel to his international bestseller The Old Ways, Macfarlane takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind. Traveling through “deep time”—the dizzying expanses of geologic time that stretch away from the present—he moves from the birth of the universe to a post-human future, from the prehistoric art of Norwegian sea caves to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, from Bronze Age funeral chambers to the catacomb labyrinth below Paris, and from the underground fungal networks through which trees communicate to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come. “Woven through Macfarlane’s own travels are the unforgettable stories of descents into the underland made across history by explorers, artists, cavers, divers, mourners, dreamers, and murderers, all of whom have been drawn for different reasons to seek what Cormac McCarthy calls “the awful darkness within the world.”Global in its geography and written with great lyricism and power, Underland speaks powerfully to our present moment. Taking a deep-time view of our planet, Macfarlane here asks a vital and unsettling question: “Are we being good ancestors to the future Earth?” Underland marks a new turn in Macfarlane’s long-term mapping of the relations of landscape and the human heart. From its remarkable opening pages to its deeply moving conclusion, it is a journey into wonder, loss, fear, and hope. At once ancient and urgent, this is a book that will change the way you see the world.

Underland Details

TitleUnderland
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 4th, 2019
PublisherW.W. Norton Company
ISBN-139780393242140
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Science, Environment, Nature, History, Travel

Underland Review

  • Fiona
    January 1, 1970
    I’m a seasoned armchair traveler, used to shadowing journeys that I know I’ll never do myself. One of my BFFs is always telling me ‘never say never’ and perhaps she’s right, except when it comes to this book, Underland. Hand on heart, I will never follow in Robert Macfarlane’s footsteps underground. I’m too claustrophobic.This book is many layered. A bridging theme to his many different journeys is our generation’s legacy to the future. In the words of Jonas Salk, “Are we being good ancestors?” I’m a seasoned armchair traveler, used to shadowing journeys that I know I’ll never do myself. One of my BFFs is always telling me ‘never say never’ and perhaps she’s right, except when it comes to this book, Underland. Hand on heart, I will never follow in Robert Macfarlane’s footsteps underground. I’m too claustrophobic.This book is many layered. A bridging theme to his many different journeys is our generation’s legacy to the future. In the words of Jonas Salk, “Are we being good ancestors?” No, we’re not, is the short answer and I think we all know that. There’s nowhere that it’s more apparent than on Greenland’s glaciers. The speed at which they’re melting should terrify us all. MacFarlane doesn’t just travel over the glaciers, he abseils into a moulin which is a hole made by meltwater that deep down will turn into a fast flowing river that melts the glacier from below.It is his journeys below ground that sent shivers down my spine. He describes his caving exploits in England so well that I found myself holding my breath with him as he squeezed through holes so narrow that he had to turn his head sideways to get through. How can people do that?! He journeys miles out under the North Sea through mining tunnels where equipment is left to rot because it’s impossible to get it back out. I felt just as claustrophobic when he writes about his ‘urban exploration’ experiences, squeezing through rabbit hole size spaces to gain access to mile after mile of tunnels beneath Paris. I didn’t know this was a thing and that there are groups of people all over the world participating in this ‘hobby’.As he wanders through a forest, he learns about the hidden life of all that grows there. A forest ‘might best be imagined as a super-organism’. A city of interactions - with trees, fungi and plants sharing, trading, befriending and supporting each other in a world that lies hidden under our feet - ‘a wood wide web’.This book is full of amazing journeys, thoughtful writing and guidance for the future, if anyone wants to listen. The ultimate lesson we should learn for our own peace of mind is ‘Find beauty, be still’.With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books UK for a review copy.PS Somehow my review has been posted twice and the book marked as read twice. Gremlins!
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  • Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
    January 1, 1970
    I was wary of Underland at the beginning, as I normally reach for Macfarlane’s books when I cannot go exploring myself. Sort of a stand in adventure while bound to my desk for work or asthma keeping my indoors in winter. How would it work reading about him exploring terrain that I have absolutely no interest in exploring myself? Would I love it or would I be detached and disinterested?Right from the beginning, I was greeted by the high level of writing. It is a bit like meeting up with an old fr I was wary of Underland at the beginning, as I normally reach for Macfarlane’s books when I cannot go exploring myself. Sort of a stand in adventure while bound to my desk for work or asthma keeping my indoors in winter. How would it work reading about him exploring terrain that I have absolutely no interest in exploring myself? Would I love it or would I be detached and disinterested?Right from the beginning, I was greeted by the high level of writing. It is a bit like meeting up with an old friend, you sit down and pick up where you left off, even when it has been years. The writing is sublime. And the introduction to the Underlands is gentle, sharing his fascination, his motives for writing, he slowly guides us into the book. I loved visiting underground spaces in this way without the need for myself to get uncomfortable, wet or in a dangerous situation. Armchair travelling at its best.Not all journeys take you literally underground, some are just left you wondering what’s underfoot and I certainly took that with me on my walks last week on holiday in Scotland. Oddly, I thought most about his words after climbing the hill to an old Iron Age Hillfort, pondering what lay beneath me and what memories the stones held that I was standing on. I don’t think, I ever really gave that much thought to what is under my feet than that what lies before my eyes when out walking. And quite frankly that change in perspective was refreshing.It also got me thinking about my own place in the world, what legacy I will leave behind. What impact I can have to safeguard, to protect and to pass on. And this is where the real strength of any good book comes from: The moment you put it down, it still occupies your thoughts, you carry its wisdom with you and phrases pop into your head when you are doing other things.Certainly a book for me that I will revisit over and over again, preferably reading out passages to my husband, because the writing is just so wonderful. And we shall keep going out and find beauty and be still.
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  • Nigel
    January 1, 1970
    In brief - Without question the best/most interesting Macfarlane book I have read. 4.5/5 and happily rounded up. In fullI am a fan of Robert Macfarlane's work and have read a number of his books over the past few years. All the previous books I've read have been largely about life in the open. This one takes a very different direction and goes Underland. In common with previous books it looks at its subject in differing places, times and ways. The range of Underland topics that he manages to cov In brief - Without question the best/most interesting Macfarlane book I have read. 4.5/5 and happily rounded up. In fullI am a fan of Robert Macfarlane's work and have read a number of his books over the past few years. All the previous books I've read have been largely about life in the open. This one takes a very different direction and goes Underland. In common with previous books it looks at its subject in differing places, times and ways. The range of Underland topics that he manages to cover is diverse, fascinating and thought provoking at times.I would argue that you need to savour a Robert Macfarlane book . I actually took a couple of months to read this, dipping in when I felt the inclination. In the case of this book in particular, and his others sometimes, they take you to strange places often known mainly to the author. For example the chapter on the Wood Wide Web I found simply fascinating. It was a subject I had little knowledge at all of and I found that it touched something in me. The Paris catacombs I knew slightly more about. Or at least I thought I did! Once I read the chapter I knew far more.Within the chapters there are often comments that are almost "asides". Again these made me sit up and take notice. I would offer as examples the comments on the hunger stones in the river Elbe or the life of drain workers in India - marvellous. The writing is rich, interesting and vivid in the main. It is not a book to rush.If you want to skip a bit fine but do be careful. There are gems in amongst the main headings. Taking the Karst and underground (sorry - underland) river near Trieste there are notes/stories/thoughts about cave exploration, rationale for doing so, mythology, flora and fauna, and dark tales of war among other things just as an example.I will confess that not every chapter fascinated me however the ones that did left me reflective and pleased that I had gained some new knowledge of this world we live on. I loved some of the ideas that came across to me in this book. When in Greenland he offers the idea that ice has a memory for thousands of years for example.During the course of this book he meets with/stays with/explores with some deeply fascinating people. There is a rich warmth of humanity in this even if sometimes the stories take us to far darker places.After Greenland Macfarlane goes to Finland to see the Hiding Place. This is a storage facility being built deep underground and intended to last for 100,000 years. It is for the storage of nuclear waste. Interesting enough you might say. However, in the way that this author seems to be able to do so easily, he couples this with the Kalevala, an epic folk poem from Finland. This poem dates back a long time however Macfarlane draws out somewhat surprising similarities between this two quite different topics. Obviously (!) he also looks at the subject of other nuclear storage facilities as well together with that topic as a whole. In turn this leads to the subject of language systems and how to communicate with people who will not be born for many centuries. It is remarkable just how readable and interesting he can make such diverse subjects.In a sense this is a difficult book to review. My journey Underland over the period of a couple on months will not be the same as anyone else's probably. The parts that touched me may not touch others in the same way. Certainly some people will look at this book and simply wonder why. However if the idea of this interests you maybe you should look at trying it. If you have read previous books by Robert Macfarlane it is possible that, like me, you will consider this his best richest book yet.Note - I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair reviewhttp://viewson.org.uk/non-fiction/und...
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  • Fiona
    January 1, 1970
    I’m a seasoned armchair traveler, used to shadowing journeys that I know I’ll never do myself. One of my BFFs is always telling me ‘never say never’ and perhaps she’s right, except when it comes to this book, Underland. Hand on heart, I will never follow in Robert Macfarlane’s footsteps underground. I’m too claustrophobic.This book is many layered. A bridging theme to his many different journeys is our generation’s legacy to the future. In the words of Jonas Salk, “Are we being good ancestors?” I’m a seasoned armchair traveler, used to shadowing journeys that I know I’ll never do myself. One of my BFFs is always telling me ‘never say never’ and perhaps she’s right, except when it comes to this book, Underland. Hand on heart, I will never follow in Robert Macfarlane’s footsteps underground. I’m too claustrophobic.This book is many layered. A bridging theme to his many different journeys is our generation’s legacy to the future. In the words of Jonas Salk, “Are we being good ancestors?” No, we’re not, is the short answer and I think we all know that. There’s nowhere that it’s more apparent than on Greenland’s glaciers. The speed at which they’re melting should terrify us all. MacFarlane doesn’t just travel over the glaciers, he abseils into a moulin which is a hole made my meltwater that deep down will turn into a fast flowing river that melts the glacier from below.It is his journeys below ground that sent shivers down my spine. He describes his caving exploits in England so well that I found myself holding my breath with him as he squeezed through holes so narrow that he had to turn his head sideways to get through. How can people do that?! He journeys miles out under the North Sea through mining tunnels where equipment is left to rot because it’s impossible to get it back out. I felt just as claustrophobic when he writes about his ‘urban exploration’ experiences, squeezing through rabbit hole size spaces to gain access to mile after mile of tunnels beneath Paris. I didn’t know this was a thing and that there are groups of people all over the world participating in this ‘hobby’.As he wanders through a forest, he learns about the hidden life of all that grows there. A forest ‘might best be imagined as a super-organism’. A city of interactions - with trees, fungi and plants sharing, trading, befriending and supporting each other in a world that lies hidden under our feet - ‘a wood wide web’.This book is full of amazing journeys, thoughtful writing and guidance for the future, if anyone wants to listen. The ultimate lesson we should learn for our own peace of mind is ‘Find beauty, be still’.With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books UK for a review copy.PS Somehow my review has been posted twice and the book marked as read twice. Gremlins!
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    This was a bit of a hodgepodge for me; that it’s exceptionally written goes without saying, but I’m not sure Macfarlane succeeds in bringing together all of his wildly different subterranean topics: mining, caving, burial chambers, the study of dark matter, radioactive waste, tree communication networks, Parisian catacombs, the mythical rivers of the underworld, prehistoric cave paintings, resistance to oil drilling, Greenland’s glaciers and Finland’s tunnels, and more. I felt crushed by the wei This was a bit of a hodgepodge for me; that it’s exceptionally written goes without saying, but I’m not sure Macfarlane succeeds in bringing together all of his wildly different subterranean topics: mining, caving, burial chambers, the study of dark matter, radioactive waste, tree communication networks, Parisian catacombs, the mythical rivers of the underworld, prehistoric cave paintings, resistance to oil drilling, Greenland’s glaciers and Finland’s tunnels, and more. I felt crushed by the weight of the prose by page 30 and skimmed the rest.Some lines I loved:“Time moves differently here in the underland. It thickens, pools, flows, rushes, slows.”“Philip Larkin famously proposed that what will survive of us is love. Wrong. What will survive of us is plastic, swine bones and lead-207, the stable isotope at the end of the uranium-235 decay chain.”“The same three [underground] tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful.”“We are often more tender to the dead than to the living, though it is the living who need our tenderness most.” [I was also sobered by his statement that most of us don’t know where we will be buried – a symptom of the nomadic nature of modern living.]
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  • Alex Sarll
    January 1, 1970
    Macfarlane's latest book is his weirdest and most magical, his most political, and definitely his darkest. Maybe also his best. It's a coming to terms with the Anthropocene that is aware of the issues with that term, and which at times feels like it would be more at home with Donna Haraway's alternate coinage of the Cthulhucene – not least when a melting glacier exposes something ancient and horrifying which for a moment resembles a black pyramid. Alan Garner gets a mention early on, but that's Macfarlane's latest book is his weirdest and most magical, his most political, and definitely his darkest. Maybe also his best. It's a coming to terms with the Anthropocene that is aware of the issues with that term, and which at times feels like it would be more at home with Donna Haraway's alternate coinage of the Cthulhucene – not least when a melting glacier exposes something ancient and horrifying which for a moment resembles a black pyramid. Alan Garner gets a mention early on, but that's for his early work, whereas the excursions into deep places and deep time here reminded me more of the haunting, fragmentary Boneland. Also of A Land, come to that, though with Jacquetta Hawkes' faith in a kind of permanence sorely shaken by recent discoveries. Elsewhere, as his voyages into the underdark strip Rob of light, voice, verticality, turning at times into literal dungeon crawls (at one point he's wriggling along like a snake), I was reminded of Veins of the Earth – though while some of the explorations detailed here may not have been strictly legal, (spoilers) Macfarlane doesn't actually end up resorting to cannibalism as everyone in that book seems doomed to do. Or not that he admits here, anyway. For a final reference point, the occasional litanies of ancient interments around the world, complete with reminders that these utterly alien people cared about their dead too, made me wonder if the crazy sod weren't trying to pull off a global Urne-Buriall, and strangest of all, more or less succeeding; Underland left me at times with a similar sense of deep horror at the fragility of the moment, mingled with a strange and almost serene acceptance, in a way few books other than Urne-Buriall ever have. Albeit always with the awareness that, where Browne's memento mori was in a sense on an individual scale, nowadays it feels more like the Reaper is limbering up for a trolley dash.The theme, in case you hadn't gathered from my free-associated rhapsody there, is the subterranean, the hidden worlds beneath our feet. This can mean anything from tooling around in tunnels under the seabed in a Transit van with a game old geezer called Neil, to the search for dark matter carried out in a hushed space honestly known as a Time Projection Chamber. There's an underground party which really is underground, a gathering for a literal subculture in Paris. Occasionally these interactions strike the false note of a TV documentary where the presenter affects wide-eyed innocence as they ask an expert to explain something the presenter obviously already knows – I find it very difficult to believe that Rob doesn't recognise a Mithraeum when he sees one. But for the most part they capture what an alert and affable soul he is, happy to talk to and learn from anyone. And elsewhere the mind-boggling is clearly genuine, as when he tramps Epping Forest with the brilliantly named Merlin Sheldrake, whose sincere opinion is, never mind Marvel, fungus is the real superhero*. Sheldrake makes a strong case for this, too, though it'd be one of those revisionist takes which emphasise the sheer weirdness and inhumanity of superheroes. The more one learns about fungus, the way it transmits messages not just fungus-to-fungus but between trees of different species, the way that not only the boundaries of species but the edges of an individual organism get muddied, the more Jeff Vandermeer reads like he's writing kitchen sink realism. And that's before we even get to the notion of earth tides. It's strange how a book about the ground can leave one feeling so absolutely the opposite of grounded. Over and over we come back to the notion of things buried coming to light again as the Earth shifts, ever more so as we throw its natural rhythms out of alignment – so ancient anthrax is resurfacing as the ice melts, old hunger stones as the lakes fall, and chemical weapons from our recent past come back thanks to the subtler but no less destructive chemical damage we've done to the atmosphere with all that CO2. Sometimes in the later chapters, I felt the sections about land which had until recently been under ice might be a bit of a cheat, but the family resemblance just about holds it together, and it all comes round at the last to a wonderful section about the deep storage facilities for nuclear waste, intended to warn off investigation even after our cultures, languages, maybe species have gone – all of it tied here to some truly ingenious, insidious thoughts on the Kalevala. I say 'at the last'; a lovely epilogue follows, and even in the backmatter there's a bit more lurking, including one brilliant twist hidden in the Acknowledgments.Two last thoughts:I don't entirely buy the etymological speculation that even the name 'humanity' derives from 'humando', burial; it's wonderfully poetic, but seems a needless extra complication when we can already derive it from 'humus', earth, which ties in to so many creation myths anyway.I love that a book this mythic and thoughtful and even hortatory can also be summed up with a Fast Show punchline, given that each of the author's voyages finds him in a hole, with an owl.*Coincidentally, the one time I played the old Marvel RPG, I made a character with fungus abilities. He was far too powerful for balance, and only debatably viable as hero rather than villain. And this was so long ago that we were still being told fungi were plants, so you can imagine how much more terrifying he'd be in light of recent scholarship.(Netgalley ARC. Also, I've known Rob on and off since school. But, you know, you read someone's first book because they're a mate; you don't keep reading up to the seventh unless they're eminently readable)
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  • jeremy
    January 1, 1970
    one of the most compelling, vivid, thought-provoking, magnificent, and richly composed non-fiction books i've read in some time, robert macfarlane's underland: a deep time journey traverses the european continent, exploring subterranean locales both natural and man-made (and, er, man-caused). with his poetic command of language, keen observational gifts, and worldly perspective, macfarlane's writing is frequently breathtaking.seamlessly blending scientific inquiry, nature writing, travelogue, ad one of the most compelling, vivid, thought-provoking, magnificent, and richly composed non-fiction books i've read in some time, robert macfarlane's underland: a deep time journey traverses the european continent, exploring subterranean locales both natural and man-made (and, er, man-caused). with his poetic command of language, keen observational gifts, and worldly perspective, macfarlane's writing is frequently breathtaking.seamlessly blending scientific inquiry, nature writing, travelogue, adventure tale, reportage, history, and requiem for our anthropocenic age, underland delves deeply — both literally and figuratively. macfarlane's new book is a remarkable exploration of natural wonder at some of the earth's most inaccessible and outlying (underlying!) places. macfarlane's enthusiasm and awe are contagious, as is his evident sorrow for what our species has collectively wrought and brought to bear on ecosystems near and far. perceptive, reflective, and educative, underland is unequivocally one of the year's must-read books; a masterful, exceptional work. we should resist inertial thinking; indeed, we should urge its opposite — deep time as a radical perspective, provoking us to action not apathy. for to think in deep time can be a means not of escaping our troubled present, but rather of re-imagining it; countermanding its quick greeds and furies with older, slower stories of making and unmaking. at its best, a deep time awareness might help us see ourselves as part of a web of gift, inheritance and legacy stretching over millions of years past and millions to come, bringing us to consider what we are leaving behind for the epochs and beings that will follow us.when viewed in deep time, things come alive that seemed inert. new responsibilities declare themselves. a conviviality of being leaps to mind and eye. the world becomes eerily various and vibrant again. ice breathes. rock has tides. mountains ebb and flow. stone pulses. we live on a restless earth.
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  • Bettie☯
    January 1, 1970
    "Happy to hold, at last, a first finished hardback copy of Underland, with @StanleyDonwood’s luminous cover & swirling strata-story endpapers. I love endpapers; portal-pages in & out of a book." - Robert Macfarlane
  • Leah
    January 1, 1970
    Unfortunately, the author's style isn't working for me, so I'm abandoning the book at 30%. I find it shallow (ironically), full of poorly evidenced observations on the human relationship to underground spaces which don't stand up to much thought. I chose it because I'd been told his writing is gorgeous, but I'm afraid I'm not seeing that. The descriptions on the whole are pedestrian, and I am so tired of being told about him shimmying through almost impossible tunnels - it would appear one narro Unfortunately, the author's style isn't working for me, so I'm abandoning the book at 30%. I find it shallow (ironically), full of poorly evidenced observations on the human relationship to underground spaces which don't stand up to much thought. I chose it because I'd been told his writing is gorgeous, but I'm afraid I'm not seeing that. The descriptions on the whole are pedestrian, and I am so tired of being told about him shimmying through almost impossible tunnels - it would appear one narrow underground tunnel is much like another.A mismatch here between author and reader, and I'm sure - in fact, I know from looking at other reviews - that it will work much better for other readers. This makes my one-star rating harsh, but it's a subjective rating of my lack of enjoyment rather than an objective judgement of the quality of the book.
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    Award-winning and bestselling author Robert Macfarlane is back with a stunning story of landscape, nature, people and place and the accompanying history. Mr Macfarlane captures your attention rapidly with the interesting, information-rich text describing places lots of people will have no knowledge of. The author manages the fine balance between introducing us to enough information so that we are intrigued and suitably engaged but not so much that you become bored and drift away. That's no easy Award-winning and bestselling author Robert Macfarlane is back with a stunning story of landscape, nature, people and place and the accompanying history. Mr Macfarlane captures your attention rapidly with the interesting, information-rich text describing places lots of people will have no knowledge of. The author manages the fine balance between introducing us to enough information so that we are intrigued and suitably engaged but not so much that you become bored and drift away. That's no easy feat.This time we follow him on an adventure to learn about those secret often unmapped places beneath our feet. I found it quite profound and nothing short of beguiling. Anyone who enjoyed Macfarlane's other nonfiction will find more the same to admire here. That said, I think this is his best and most informative book yet. It is also written in a fashion that seems accessible and understandable to everyone. The subterranean landscape he explores is so unique and fascinating and the folktales and mythology introduced make this a mysterious read. This is science and nature reporting at its very best. Many thanks to Hamish Hamilton for an ARC.
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  • Glen
    January 1, 1970
    I won this book in a goodreads drawing.A nature writer writes about caves and other underground topics. Spelunking seems fun, but dangerous, much like skydiving. Lots of ruminating and speculating.Fascinating, but several times we see how science is not all about facts and figures and duplicating results, but rather about scientists, and their ideas and emotions.
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  • Laura
    January 1, 1970
    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the week:In his eagerly awaited new book, Robert Macfarlane muses on the worlds beneath our feet. Abridged for radio by Katrin Williams.In this the Anthropocene Age, life underground is ecologically and delicately poised... And then he recalls a vivid cave journey in the Mendips, with his friend Sean - "The entry is awkward, a body-bending downwards wriggle before a drop..."Read by the authorProducer Duncan Minshullhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000...
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  • Thebooktrail
    January 1, 1970
    Visit some of the locations - there's many underground!I always enjoy the books Robert Macfarlane writes but this one is my favourite. Ever since I read Alice in Wonderland, I have wanted to go underground and see what’s beneath our feet. I read a lot about the underground in crime fiction but that’s another kind altogether so I was particularly keen to get stuck in with this.Robert certainly has a nice and assured style to his writing that exudes his passion and love of what he’s writing about. Visit some of the locations - there's many underground!I always enjoy the books Robert Macfarlane writes but this one is my favourite. Ever since I read Alice in Wonderland, I have wanted to go underground and see what’s beneath our feet. I read a lot about the underground in crime fiction but that’s another kind altogether so I was particularly keen to get stuck in with this.Robert certainly has a nice and assured style to his writing that exudes his passion and love of what he’s writing about. He takes you with him every step of the way and it’s a wonderful journey.There were so many fine places to visit! Catacombs, glaciers, nuclear waste sites, caves and more besides. This is a very unique travel guide that’s for sure. It’s amazing what you learn without realising you’re doing it. I feel more intelligent for reading this but also more curious and more interested in what lies beneath my feet.I’ve been to a few places in the book but it’s the Catacombs in Paris that chilled me the most. Skulls and skeletons along caverns and in caves ..a spooky site but a one stepped in heritage and history. It’s certainly made me want to travel to more of the places he talks about. He’s an excellent guide and there is a sense of calm, chill and claustrophobia along the way.He examines the need for travel, for exploration, for people’s fascination with caves and burials, exploration underground. There’s so much packed in yet it never feels like a fact book. Far from it – it’s as if Robert has taken you on a very personal an interesting guide..Brilliant. I loved it. It’s unique, refreshing and utterly captivating.
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  • Karina
    January 1, 1970
    Utterly stunning writing, and for me, his finest book to date.
  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! This book will blow you away with the insight that it provides. I am still in awe of the wealth of information that I have gained. It gives me such a better appreciation of our world and what lies underneath the surface. Robert McFarlane has lived so many things I would have thought impossible. His drive and strength is amazing to have pushed himself to such extremes. Robert's experiences cover such wide variety of topics. I felt like I was familiar with many of the "scientific" terms but t Wow! This book will blow you away with the insight that it provides. I am still in awe of the wealth of information that I have gained. It gives me such a better appreciation of our world and what lies underneath the surface. Robert McFarlane has lived so many things I would have thought impossible. His drive and strength is amazing to have pushed himself to such extremes. Robert's experiences cover such wide variety of topics. I felt like I was familiar with many of the "scientific" terms but the story caused me to pause and look up meanings of some of British/Scottish words. As deep (no pun intended) as this book was, it was enjoyable while challenging. I am going to recall with fondness much of what I have learned. Job well done! Robert McFarlene is now on my reading list. An excellent discovery. I won this book in a GoodReads Giveaway.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    I want to read everything this author has written....
  • Charlotte Burt
    January 1, 1970
    This guy can really write. Armchair caving at it's best and so much more. I loved the chapter about the Paris catacombs.
  • Alan Williams
    January 1, 1970
    This is probably Robert Macfarlane's best book to date. From the Mendips to the catacombs beneath Paris; from the former Yugoslavia to Greenland. The book is both claustrophobic and mind expanding.I think I'd still say that "The Wild Places" is my favourite of his books but that's because of personal preference around topic rather than the book itself.It is a beautiful book and one that I had a sadness finishing because it was over.
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  • Stephanie Crowe
    January 1, 1970
    I have never thought a lot about the ground under my feet as it was not in my visual line of sight. Macfarlane has changed my thinking on the subject and has written an insightful and very book on what is underground. A fascinating look at the varied life under the earth’s surface. And there is so much history to be discovered there! Even though small spaces make me nervous, I loved this book! A great read!
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  • Aria
    January 1, 1970
    ---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ---- So, this was okay. It needs to be thinned down, particularly for reading by the wider public. For those who are already into this kind of thing, it could benefit from more detail regarding specific sites, & maybe fewer remarks about the author's personal experience. So basically I am suggesting that there are two possible books here. There is a lot of info. in here. It's too much, frankly. Bonus points for the Pixies refere ---- Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ---- So, this was okay. It needs to be thinned down, particularly for reading by the wider public. For those who are already into this kind of thing, it could benefit from more detail regarding specific sites, & maybe fewer remarks about the author's personal experience. So basically I am suggesting that there are two possible books here. There is a lot of info. in here. It's too much, frankly. Bonus points for the Pixies reference, though. I appreciate the exploration of forgotten & overlooked spaces. Writing about such a thing is sure to stoke further interest by people not yet in-the-know re: all the possibilities of such places. Of particular interest for me were the chapters relating to physics labs, b/c I'm a nerd, & the section relating to the underground of Paris, which is not exactly a secret if one has read any amount of Vampire-related fiction......or even just about crime in Paris. Fascinating stuff, that. The salt mines were surprisingly of interest, as well. Beyond that, well, I tried, but I couldn't bring myself to care. It was just more underground tunnels. The frozen lands I really could not focus on for the life of myself or anyone else. I'm sure the frozen stuff, of which there was a lot, will be exactly what someone else finds interesting. My eyes just glazed over, though. Returning to my original remarks, I suggest that before issuing to the general public the author selects for this book some good examples of a few diff. kinds of underground possibilities, & just flesh those out. For the more, shall we say, already involved & initiated types of explorers, a diff. book related to varying locales & their specificities would certainly be of good purpose. As this thing stands now, it's too much for some, likely not enough for others. This cover though, it's pretty great. With the (also great) title it reads as a cover belonging to a fiction story, so that's a thing, but it's still quite a nice cover.
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  • Wanda
    January 1, 1970
    28 APR 2018 - recommendation through Laura. Thank you, Dear Laura.
  • Tanya
    January 1, 1970
    The same three tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful... Into the underland we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save. [loc. 113]Macfarlane's epic journey to the 'underland' -- the places beneath the earth -- is formed of three parts: 'Seeing' (caves, forests and a dark-matter research facility, all in England);'Hiding' (catacombs, underground rivers a The same three tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful... Into the underland we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save. [loc. 113]Macfarlane's epic journey to the 'underland' -- the places beneath the earth -- is formed of three parts: 'Seeing' (caves, forests and a dark-matter research facility, all in England);'Hiding' (catacombs, underground rivers and the caves and fissures of karst uplands, in Europe); and 'Haunting' (cave paintings, undersea oil extraction, glaciers and a nuclear waste depository, all in 'the North'). One certainly gets the sense that the author, an experienced caver and mountaineer, is pushing his own physical limits at times. But he is not, or not primarily, a scientist. He's given to poetic pronouncements, such as (speaking of sand-grains, once wind-smoothed in a desert, retrieved from beneath a glacier) he describes them as 'desert diamonds from the bottom of the world.' 'I can tell you’re not a scientist,' says his companion. Macfarlane, though, does have a keen understanding and an eye for significant detail. Throughout his explorations, he finds the right people to talk to, and these often are scientists: a mycologist describing the intricate network of fungi that connect the trees in Epping Forest, a physicist in search of dark matter 'shielded from the surface by 3,000 feet of halite, gypsum, dolomite, mudstone, siltstone, sandstone, clay and topsoil'.Underland is full of myth and literature, too, from the Mithraic cults and katabases (descents underground) of pre-Christian religions to the claustrophobic explorations in Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. (Personally, Garner's description of getting stuck in a narrow tunnel beneath Alderley Edge, horrified me so much that the chances of my willingly going caving are microscopically low.) Macfarlane is eclectic: Philip Larkin ('what will survive of us is plastic, swine bones and lead-207'), Greek tragedy, the Kalevala, Ursula Le Guin, Jules Verne ... And the connections are not limited to the claustrophobia (or claustrophilia?) of the underland: Macfarlane ranges through the sense of disconnection experienced by those who see their familiar landscapes destroyed, the urge towards art -- cave paintings, friezes of bone, sculpture -- underground, the 'past pain and present beauty' of former war-zones, the way that time seems to work differently when one is hidden from the sun. The cover design is splendid. Like Macfarlane, I thought it showed a bright sunset at the end of a country lane. No, says the artist. "[It] isn't the sun. It's the last thing you'd ever see. It's the light of a nuclear blast that has just detonated, seen down a holloway. When you look at Nether, you've got about 0.001 of a second of life remaining, before the flesh is melted from your bones." Because running through Underland is the urgent message that we are wrecking the world: that the nuclear waste and the proofs of genocide will surface, the abandoned diggers beneath the North Sea and the concrete-entombed body of a dead caver will outlast us, the glaciers -- retreating faster than satellite mapping can follow -- will unbury their burdens of ancient ice and forgotten corpses. That Underland succeeds in being a beautiful and erudite description of what lies beneath us, as well as a discourse on climate change, ecological catastrophe and human suffering, seems to me a triumph. Even when I was reading about topics that distressed or angered me, I was enjoying the prose. True, Macfarlane does occasionally stumble on that thin line between 'poetic' and 'flaky', but he's so sincere that I didn't balk much at sentences such as 'I'd like to die and be reborn as a boulder here'. And his prose is immensely evocative and often moving: there's a description of a chunk of black ice calving from a glacier that is spectacularly immediate.Underland flickers from reports of conversations with the people who know these places best -- cavers, ecological activists, cataphiles -- to passages that feel like simple transcriptions of notes scribbled 'on site', the author's stream-of-consciousness narrative of what he is experiencing. It's not just darkness and silence, not just doom and gloom: there is fascination, appreciation of beauty, and a real joy in his surroundings. I almost want to go caving. Almost.I am extremely grateful to NetGalley for providing a free review copy in exchange for this honest review.Robert Macfarlane on creating the cover of Underland with artist Stanley DonwoodRobert Macfarlane on writing UnderlandAlex Preston's review in the Guardian
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  • David Kenvyn
    January 1, 1970
    I have to be honest. I bought this book because I was looking for something to read on a long train journey. The cover illustration is of interlocking branches over a sunset. Neither the title “Underland” nor the sub-title “A Deep Time Journey” gave any real indication of what the book was about. And there was a tagline about entering the Underland through the riven trunk of an old ash tree. Everything suggested that it was a fantasy novel, and that it would be a fun read on a very long train jo I have to be honest. I bought this book because I was looking for something to read on a long train journey. The cover illustration is of interlocking branches over a sunset. Neither the title “Underland” nor the sub-title “A Deep Time Journey” gave any real indication of what the book was about. And there was a tagline about entering the Underland through the riven trunk of an old ash tree. Everything suggested that it was a fantasy novel, and that it would be a fun read on a very long train journey.It is not a fantasy novel. It is a book about the author descending into the depths of the earth in various parts of the northern hemisphere to find out what is under the ground on which we tread. It is a very long book. I had one very simple problem with it. I did not see the point. This was partly because it was very difficult for me to see the connection between the various, different sections of the book, apart from the fact that each section dealt with something that is beneath our feet if we are standing in a particular part of the world.One of the questions that this book raises is a simple one: Why do we go under the land? What is our purpose? This is why the book is a deep time journey because it goes back far beyond the historical record to our first emergence as what Desmond Morris, in a famous book, called “The Naked Ape”. We went into caves for shelter from the weather and for protection from predators. Then we began to bury our dead. So, this book sets itself the task of exploring the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory and fact.The author explores the Underland of Europe and Greenland, visiting caves in the Mendips, a mine in Boulby in Yorkshire, Epping Forest, the catacombs of Paris, an underground river in the Carso in Italy, the Slovenian Highlands, the Lofoten Islands in Norway, glaciers in Greenland and a nuclear waste storage facility in Finland. Some of these underlands are natural, some of them are man-made. All of them require the author to be shown around by people who are experts in that particular terrain.It is difficult to see what the link between these places is, apart from the author’s obsession with going beneath the surface of the earth to find out what is underneath. Perhaps that is the only link. Perhaps I am missing something.The book is well-written. Each episode is described well. Some of the stories make you wonder about the sanity of humans. Why do people go into the catacombs of Paris (essentially sewers) so that they can party? Why do people risk their lives to find out exactly where an underground river flows between its disappearance and re-emergence? Why do people abseil into the cracks in glaciers? The answer is, because they can.But I am left with an essential question about this book. Why was it written? And I confess that I do not know the answer.
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  • Vivienne
    January 1, 1970
    My thanks to Penguin Books U.K. for an eARC via NetGalley of Robert Macfarlane’s ‘Underland: a Deep Time Journey’ in exchange for an honest review.Robert Macfarlane takes us on a journey into the worlds beneath our feet. He travels to various locations throughout the world recording his experiences and impressions in notebooks. Among the many areas covered within ‘Underland’ are: the underground networks of trees (wood wide web), dark matter experiments, undercities and catacombs, urban explorer My thanks to Penguin Books U.K. for an eARC via NetGalley of Robert Macfarlane’s ‘Underland: a Deep Time Journey’ in exchange for an honest review.Robert Macfarlane takes us on a journey into the worlds beneath our feet. He travels to various locations throughout the world recording his experiences and impressions in notebooks. Among the many areas covered within ‘Underland’ are: the underground networks of trees (wood wide web), dark matter experiments, undercities and catacombs, urban explorers, starless rivers, caves and sacred sites, ancient and recent history, burial rites, rock art, natural and unnatural disasters (many heartbreaking to read), hollow Earth stories, ice-core science, chambers cut into the earth to house radioactive waste (with warnings for future generations to not investigate).There is also a fair amount about climate change and the Anthropocene, the name for our current epoch of immense and often frightening change on a planetary scale. Macfarlane incorporates many anecdotes of his travels in a poetic style that proved very readable. In his travels he connects with fascinating, eccentric people. This is nature and science writing at its finest.This book was guaranteed to be a good fit for me. Since childhood I have been drawn to myths, legends and stories about the underworld whether it be multiple readings of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alan Garner’s Alderley Edge series and exploring myths such as the descent of Ishtar, the Eleusinian Mysteries and Arthur’s raid upon the Celtic Underworld. I am now very keen to read Macfarlane’s other works on landscape. ‘Underland’ is one that I will buy in hardback in order to savour it again at a more leisurely pace.
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  • Overbylass
    January 1, 1970
    I've only read three books by the author so far and will try more over time .I try so hard to be team Macfarlane .The books are praised so highly that I want in on it all -but I always feel I'm not wanted. I feel excluded , that somehow the books know I was born working class , educated at a hideous Middlesbrough 80s comprehensive and then ,as a result, onto a mediocre 'college' for a degree. They seem to always tell me that this not your world ...you'll never go to these places, with these cont I've only read three books by the author so far and will try more over time .I try so hard to be team Macfarlane .The books are praised so highly that I want in on it all -but I always feel I'm not wanted. I feel excluded , that somehow the books know I was born working class , educated at a hideous Middlesbrough 80s comprehensive and then ,as a result, onto a mediocre 'college' for a degree. They seem to always tell me that this not your world ...you'll never go to these places, with these contacts and friends. Is it a chip on my shoulder ,or the writing style ,that is born of a good education and all the benefits that brings. I love nature writing and I can see there are some beautifully written pieces in this book , it always feels a bit 'Boys Own' ish. Like the books of old where 'the knowledge' was passed from private school teachers to their charges ,to go forth and explore the world and tell the plebs about it. I can't fully explain explain what I mean, due to my rubbish education! I just don't feel I belong in this genre of nature writing. Maybe the writer needs to come up to Middlesbrough/NE ,for a change ?
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Recommended by Richard Powers (The Overstory) in By the Book https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/28/bo...
  • mylogicisfuzzy
    January 1, 1970
    “The same three tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful. Shelter (memories, precious matter, messages, fragile lives). Yield (information, wealth, metaphors, minerals, visions). Dispose (waste, trauma, poison, secrets). Into the underland we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save.” says Robert Macfarlane in the Introduction to this wonderful book. I say “The same three tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful. Shelter (memories, precious matter, messages, fragile lives). Yield (information, wealth, metaphors, minerals, visions). Dispose (waste, trauma, poison, secrets). Into the underland we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save.” says Robert Macfarlane in the Introduction to this wonderful book. I say ‘wonderful’ but I’m not sure if that is the right word or if it is even possible to summarise it in one word. It is certainly an immediate favourite of his that I have read. It is also, despite dealing with ‘deep time’ (or “dizzying expanses of Earth history that stretch away from the present moment”) his most contemporary and urgent book. And it is dark too, concerned with climate change, conflict, disposal of nuclear waste and how these affect nature, landscape and people. “We are presently living through the Anthropocene, an epoch of immense and often frightening change at a planetary scale, in which ‘crisis’ exists not as an ever-deferred future apocalypse but rather as an ongoing occurrence experienced most severely by the most vulnerable. Time is profoundly out of joint – and so is place. Things that should have stayed buried are rising up unbidden. When confronted by such surfacings it can be hard to look away, seized by the obscenity of the intrusion.”At the same time, it is a book full of wonders. Macfarlane’s writing is lyrical and beautiful, thoughtful and personal. “Colour is preposterous, gorgeous again. Blue is seen utterly as blue, green known fully as green. We are high on hue, high on the wild noise of the wind, high on the last of the sunlight that glosses the streamers of the veering swallows, high on the huge vault of the sky and the boiling clouds it holds.” on coming out of a Mendip cave at sunset. The people Macfarlane meets, from plant scientist Merlin Sheldrake in Epping Forest to Norwegian fisherman Bjørnar Nicolaisen and Lina in the underground Paris are fascinating and so are the stories they tell and the journeys they take with Macfarlane. I know I will mine the Notes and Bibliography for years to come seeking to become more familiar with some of the authors and texts that Macfarlane refers to and quotes. I did the same after reading The Old Ways, the first book on nature and the relationship between landscape and people I’d read and it has been the most rewarding experience. Gutted Macfarlane's one London appearance to promote this book sold out before I could get tickets. My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review Underland.
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  • Dec Lloyd
    January 1, 1970
    An elegant blend of history, anthropology and philosophy that veers into a gripping adventure story.. love it!
  • Tracey
    January 1, 1970
    I love literature about mountains, nature, woodland, wilderness and all things outdoors so Robert Macfarlane is the ultimate author for me. However when I saw this was about the world beneath our feet, I thought this might be the book to stop the love affair. How wrong I was. It was thoroughly intriguing and makes me long to explore catacombs in Paris, mines in Wales and cave art in Norway. Beautifully written and wonderfully researched, it is a book I shall return to time and again. I feel like I love literature about mountains, nature, woodland, wilderness and all things outdoors so Robert Macfarlane is the ultimate author for me. However when I saw this was about the world beneath our feet, I thought this might be the book to stop the love affair. How wrong I was. It was thoroughly intriguing and makes me long to explore catacombs in Paris, mines in Wales and cave art in Norway. Beautifully written and wonderfully researched, it is a book I shall return to time and again. I feel like the scales have fallen from my eyes and have come out the other side of it with a different perspective on what is literally happening beneath us every day. As well as a huge reading list! Brilliant stuff.
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  • AnnaG
    January 1, 1970
    As ever Macfarlane’s nature writing is sublime and you get a real sense of the beautiful places he is visiting and the fascinating characters along the way.For me I found that it was best to take this book in small chunks as there is a lot to take in, in every chapter.
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