A blend of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Simon Winchester’s Pacific, a detective story that looks deep into the past to uncover who first settled the islands of the remote Pacific, where they came from, how they got there, and how we know.
... magnificent ... Sea People does a marvelous job of covering every line of inquiry into [the phenomenon of how a single culture spread across a 10-million-square-mile area]. It’s a grand, symphonic, beautifully written book, drawing on findings in anthropology, archaeology, oceanography, linguistics, DNA research, radiocarbon dating, and Polynesian myth and folklore as it examines a reality that, when first apprehended by Westerners, seemed to defy explanation.
Christina Thompson weaves together history, science, folklore and the islands’ ancient oral traditions, archeology and genealogy, creating a mesmerizing, page-turning account of Polynesia. Thompson includes an intriguing cast of characters ... Thompson’s personal interest in the subject was piqued by her Maori husband and sons, who are direct descendants of Polynesians. This deep curiosity shines through in the meticulous background and details she provides ... Thompson’s book sheds light on a fascinating region. Sea People is a revelatory summation of this vast area steeped in culture and tradition.
Thompson is certainly an engaging writer, deftly weaving her fascinating narrative of European travels and the newcomers' attempts to understand and 'crack' the Polynesian puzzle... But issues of European colonization are often glossed over ... Such eliding is perhaps a matter of length and focus, as well as a decision to move chronologically from the European perspective, but it's a shame that it isn't until the third part of the book (titled somewhat glibly 'Why Not Just Ask Them?') that Thompson begins to deeply explore the various Polynesian oral traditions that relate (often in tandem) genealogies, histories, myths, navigational lessons and practical skills and which have, in most recent scientific discovers, proved to be quite accurate in terms of timeline and historical voyaging.