Bill François takes us on a deep dive into the secret lives of the world’s aquatic creatures, from musical whales and immortal eels to the cod that discovered America and the herring that almost caused a military conflict.
François eschews the usual roundup of career achievements and research milestones in favor of a compendium of observations and anecdotes from an earnest aficionado, an environmentalist devoted to the seas. It’s a voice that suits him well, and his enchantment with and affection for the watery world about which he writes radiates from every page ... Such humanizing sentiments abound in this book...Early on it can be hard to accept just how genuine he is, yet his fervor is infectious and rather refreshing ... Some autobiographical episodes are melodramatic...And his ardor can be overwrought at times...But these are peccadillos of passion ... And that passion is a distinct advantage when discussing the damage that humans are causing to the sea and to the creatures who live there ... there will probably be some readers who find François too effusive or hippie-dippie, but that says more about them. For his part, François just wants to spark a discussion.
Readers who appreciate nature stories will like this short, punchy book, although some transitions in the storytelling are bumpy, and readers will need some background knowledge in order to understand a few of the references. This pop science book is inflected with memoir, with François narrating his travels around the world and describing his friends in various subcultures, but there is little development of figures beyond the author. The book is really about François’s connection with marine life ... For people who love the aquatic world and those who aspire to.
François has written something difficult to categorize: a symphony, a paean, an ode expressing his love for everything to do with the sea ... His scientific background allows him to understand its intricate workings, and to explain them to his readers ... His is an optimistic view of the ocean, focusing on its magic rather than its peril due to climate change and other nefarious dangers. It is a joy to read.