four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
49-Nov-Dec-2010
By: 
Susan Casey
user_rating: 
0

In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

A-The WaveSusan Casey is the editor-in-chief of O: The Oprah Magazine and author of the bestselling The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks (2005). Her work has also appeared in Time, Esquire, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated.

The Topic: Long dismissed as physically impossible fishermen's tales, massive rogue waves took the scientific establishment by storm in 2000 when a British research vessel was battered by them in the North Sea. In her wide-ranging investigation, Casey reviews current research and bizarre new discoveries in "wave science," dedicated to identifying and analyzing the myriad forces that combine to form ocean waves. Meanwhile, extreme surfers in search of the ultimate wave have pioneered tow-surfing, wherein Jet Skis provide the force and speed necessary to ride the biggest waves. As the world's climate continues to shift, storms may become more volatile, waves may grow bigger, and the struggle to understand and predict these giants would be crucial to the survival of millions of people around the world.
Doubleday. 352 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 9780767928847

San Francisco Chronicle 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean is--like the monster subject of her book--immensely powerful, beautiful, addictive and, yes, incredibly thrilling. ... And like a surfer who is happily hooked, the reader simply won't be able to get enough of it." Lynne Cox

Toronto Globe and Mail 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Instinct tells us that mere words (and a few pictures) should not be able to portray the world of the big-wave surfer, let alone the fearsome power of the waves they ride, but Casey's thrilling, stylish prose does that and more. I'm only allowed 800 words for this review. Here are a few: fascinating, heroic, dazzling, terrifying, amazing, unbelievable, mesmerizing, instructive, enlightening, superb." Richard Ellis

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"The Wave, Susan Casey's white-knuckle chronicle--which follows the surfers pursuing the waves and the scientists struggling to understand them--delivers a thrill so intense you may never get in a boat again." Tina Jordan

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It would have been a stronger book had she worked harder at translating what little is known about these waves rather than just saying it's complicated and moving on. ... The surfer stories are compelling and wonderfully detailed, but the men she follows around appear to lack the vocabulary to describe their motivations and ambitions." Scott Martelle

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Her wonderfully vivid, kinetic narrative only occasionally groans under the weight of too many Wild Surf stories, and she offers a prescient vision of watery perils--and sometimes, bittersweet triumphs." Holly Morris

Wall Street Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Wave is at its best when it dovetails discussions of big-wave science with reports of surfers' efforts to climb aboard one of the behemoths. The book falters when Ms. Casey tries to tie the supposed intensifying of ocean waves (she asserts the fact without providing evidence) to global warming." Matt Robinson

Critical Summary

Part science lesson and part adrenaline rush, The Wave is an intense thrill ride that manages to take a broad look at oversized, potentially devastating waves. The critics praised Casey's eloquent writing and jaw-droppingly vivid descriptions of chasing--or trying desperately to steer clear of--these aquatic behemoths. Although the Los Angeles Times craved more technical information, and the New York Times Book Review considered the combination of science and surfing a bit odd, most critics brushed such concerns aside. Casey's entertaining and enlightening exploration of the world's giant waves will leave readers with "a healthy respect for the power of these waves" (Los Angeles Times) and a chilling sense of how little we truly know about the oceans that surround us.