Trapped Under the Sea

Snoskred was provided with a free copy of Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey from the website Blogging for Books which provides review copies of books to bloggers, retailers, librarians, and media outlets in exchange for an honest review.

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Image credit – Random House

Trapped Under the Sea is the harrowing story of five men who were sent into a dark, airless, miles-long tunnel, hundreds of feet below the ocean, to do a nearly impossible job – with deadly results.

At the respectable bedtime of 10:30 on a Friday night, I snuggled in to bed and began to read.. somehow I got sucked into that temporal vortex that happens with truly excellent writing. This was not helped by the fact that the Kindle reader app hides the time – my normal reading app Moonreader gives me the time in the bottom corner – and the fact that I did not have to get up by any particular time on Saturday..

The next thing I knew I had finished the book. A quick check of the time – 4am. And I knew there was no way on earth that anything I could write here in my review could do true justice to this book. It is a beautifully written masterpiece. So my deepest apologies to the author in advance. :)

As I lay there in the dark pondering what I had just read, a quote from my favourite Stephen King book The Dead Zone popped up in my mind.

“Ninety-five percent of people who walk the earth are simply inert. One percent are saints, and one percent are assholes. The other three percent are people who do what they say they can do.”

The divers who were chosen to undertake this very difficult task were all 3 percent people – they were people who did what they say they can do. They had long personal histories of doing difficult jobs in tricky situations. In this situation, they were not underwater but they were deep in a dead-end tunnel that had no air supply, so they had to bring their own air with them.

It is vastly unfortunate that the person tasked with putting together their air supply was not one of those people who *can* do what they say they can do.. if anything, in my personal opinion he was in the one percent that are *not* saints.

He claimed he could put a safe air supply together but it was cobbled together with plywood, duct tape, air from liquid nitrogen and oxygen bottles and being mixed using a mixer not intended for the purpose it was being used for. There was absolutely zero testing of the system he created. This ended up costing people their lives, while he sat safely above ground.

The book also tells the history of the tunnel project, examines the people in charge of the project and the relationships with companies and personalities involved. It describes the investigation and tells the story of exactly what went wrong, also making clear what could have been done to prevent these deaths. It then leaves the reader to judge what level of responsibility those involved in the project have in the deaths of these workers.

I’m not going to tell you any more of the story, because I think you should read it for yourself. I will say that Neil Swidey seems to be some kind of writing magician. In this book, things that appear to be mundane details are somehow not mundane, rather they are gripping and mesmerizing. Complex concepts are communicated simply and clearly. Contract struggles, which would be boring in the hands of most people, are somehow transformed into fascinating essays.

The only tiny negative I could find – there were some great drawings in the book which explained concepts which had been described in writing before the drawing appeared. I felt that I would have understood the written explanation better if I had seen the drawing first, when I saw the drawing it was like “Oh, now I get it!” and I did actually go back to read the explanation a second time once I did see the drawing. But this is a tiny nitpick, it might be me rather than any fault of the book or the writing and it is also possible that the drawings appear in a different place in the actual book than they do in the e-book.

I was extremely lucky to pick such a captivating and beautifully written book as my first read from Blogging for Books. I do hope I will have that kind of luck again on a regular basis. With that said, this book was so excellent that *any* book I read for a while is going to seem mediocre.

You can grab a copy of the book on Kindle via Amazon here – the website for the book is here. There is also this great page – Behind the Book – which you can read with a little more info, some photos, and some links to interviews. Plus, there is this video.

The first thing I did when I woke up the next day was to seek out what other books had been written by Neil Swidey – and despite the fact that I am not a sports fan, I am quite determined to get my hands on The Assist via my Kindle account.

I truly enjoyed reading this book. I think this is an important story that workers and employers should read, if only to make people stop and think of the possible implications of the things they do at work, whether those things are safe, and whether the people above you truly have your back when it comes to occupational health and safety in the workplace. In Australia, over 180 people die at work every year.

If you want to read it yourself, here are my suggestions – It is unlikely that you will want to stop reading once you start reading this book, so I suggest pick a time when you do not have any fixed commitments for the next 6-24 hours, depending on how fast you read.. People have told me all my life that I am a fast reader and that is probably true, so if you are not a fast reader give yourself more of a buffer zone.

Snoskred rating – 10 out of 10 – Must Read.

Don’t forget, you can view my disclosure policy here. All opinions and thoughts are my own and will always reflect my own experience – positive, negative, or in-between.

You too can sign up to review books via Blogging for Books. I’d really love it if you did. Book reviews are something I never get tired of reading and some of the best gems I have found have been thanks to fellow bloggers who took the time to read the book and then write about it.

I hope you enjoyed my review, you can feel free to give me feedback in the comments. :)

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10 thoughts on “Trapped Under the Sea

  1. This is a book I need to read. I already feel so enraged that people’s lives were endangered in this way and I haven’t started reading yet! Great review. I’ve added it to my wish list.

    • The odd thing about it was, the next day I was trying to explain the air supply toThe Other Half, and he knew right away exactly what went wrong with it, before I even got into that part. The Other Half is not a diver himself but he does have an understanding of science more so than the average bloke. :)

      So I said how come the guy building it did not know this would fail? There really are only two options – he did know but did not know how to fix it and could not admit to anyone he had failed – or he did not know because he had some kind of blind spot or tunnel vision.

      I mean the guy had built a similar system for the *cars* – the hummers – and that was built exactly how the air system for the men should have been.

    • The video I linked to showed inside the tunnel and also had some video of the hummer setup they were using. It was truly freaky in there.. it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

    • I just got my second book which I had been considering picking VS the first book, I am really thrilled to have got it because I have a feeling it is just as high quality as the first one was. Could I really be that lucky twice in a row? Maybe a lotto ticket is a good idea for me this week. :)

      I also got a book I applied for on Netgalley which is another great book site.

      So many people say that books are dying but I strongly disagree – I have never read so many great new books as the past few years.. :)

  2. I love it when a story sucks me in so much that I lose track of the time! That’s definitely a sign of a great read. Adding this book to my list!

  3. I’m a slow reader so I’d take a bit longer than 24 hours to get through this. I’ll see if my library has it, but not just yet, I have a stack of books three feet high to get through already, plus kindle books.

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