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Monday, April 23, 2012

“Let the Sea Make a Noise...: A History of the North Pacific from Magellan to Macarthur”, by Walter A. McDougall


816 pages, Basic Books, ISBN-13: 978-0465051526

In this exceptionally innovative work, Walter McDougall projects on a large screen 400 years of exciting voyages of discovery, pioneering feats, engineering marvels, political plots and business chicanery, racial clashes and brutal wars. It is a chronicle complete with little-known facts and turning points, but always focused on the remarkable people at the center of events while dividing the narrative into three technological eras: The Age of Sail; The Age of Steam & Rails; and The Age of the Internal Combustion Engine. The literary device is a tale told by a dreaming professor to an audience of historical personalities who were themselves at the center of events.

With echoes of Citizens, Shogun, The Fatal Shore, Hawaii, and Modern Times, this book is unlike any history you've ever read. Not pure history or pure novel or historical novel, Let the Sea Make a Noise... is novelistic history: impeccable nonfiction in a fantasy setting. Imagine a tale told by a dreaming professor to an audience of historical personages who were themselves key figures in the history the author is relating. Imagine a narrative that is frequently interrupted by these historical characters reminiscing and arguing about the meaning of the events they lived. Imagine a narrative of 400 years of exciting voyages of discovery, pioneering feats, engineering marvels, political plots and business chicanery, racial clashes and brutal wars - a chronicle replete with little-known facts and turning points but always focused on the remarkable people at the center of events, among them, the American-loving Japanese ambassador to Washington on the eve of Pearl Harbor, the Russian builder of the Trans-Siberian railway, a Hawaiian queen from the first period of Western competition for the Islands, the American Secretary of State infamous for his "folly" in purchasing Alaska, a Spanish missionary from the period when it looked as if the whole area might have become part of the Spanish realm. A stunning saga of human adventure, Let the Sea Make a Noise... is a gripping account of the rise and fall of empires in the last vast unexplored corner of the habitable earth - an area occupying one-sixth of the globe. Organized into short, action-packed scenarios that zip the reader from the tropical paradise of Hawaii to the island fortress of Japan, from the frozen wastes of Siberia to the California coastline and into the power centers of London, Washington, Tokyo, and St. Petersburg, the book offers dazzling insights into all the twists and turns of the Pacific empire.

Let the Sea Make a Noise… is a gripping account of the rise and fall of the empires in the last, vast, unexplored corner of the habitable earth – an area occupying 1/6 of the globe. There is no other book that covers these same subjects in this wealth of detail and with such chronological scope.

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