Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Book Review: Henry Hudson - Dreams And Obsession

Second book review, this time of Henry Hudson - Dreams and Obsession. Alas can not give such a good report as for the First Fleet in the last post.

The book tells the story of the search by Henry Hudson for the North-East or North-West passage across the Arctic to Asia. Or at least that's what the front and back covers say.

But the author meanders off in all directions and seems more interested in the tangents than the core story. I'm sure you all know someone who can't tell a story, but keeps getting distracted by side issues. Well the author Corey Sandler has that bad.

So after a brief bit of Hudson there is intermiable long pages about domestic US environmental politics involving something called "Superfund" law which he assumes we all know about. Then when Hudson goes north there is long description of the agreements between Canada and the native people and differences between Cree and Inuit cultures.

Indeed for a book with an international topic it has a very domestic US feel to it. Even though Hudson was a Brit who was born in London and lived in Britain his Dutch wages are converted into dollars not pounds. And units are in feet and pounds (yuck).

And while North American subjects get the full mention-every-possible-fact approach, elsewhere is a different story.

At one point he says the way to Asia was difficult because of "Muslim pirates". This is a new term to me and I've read a lot of pirate books. What does this mean? Would he say that William Kidd was a Christian pirate? Given in Hudson's time Islam was a major religion from Morocco to Indonesia this could mean anyone over a range of over 12,000 km.

Its the sort of lazy line that Fox TV "news" uses to propagate its prejudices.

So its been a slow read. Unlike the First Fleet each chapter has dragged, and looking at the page number at the bottom has led to a "are we there yet" attitude.

And again the maps were a disgrace.

So unfortunately can't recommend this book.

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