Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Full Meridian Pre-review

I am a member of Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program and the book I got in the February batch was Full Meridian of Glory: Perilous Adventures in the Competition to Measure the Earth by Paul Murdin. Now the comment that I get on Library Thing says that I am encouraged to post my review on my blog and, since I now have a blog, I thought I would do just that. The only problem is I’m having trouble writing one. So I thought I would post some of my thoughts about the book and hope I could polish it up from there. So what you read here is less a review and more a first draft, stream of consciousness sort of thing. Hopefully it will tell you something about the book and help me come up with a well thought out review to put on Library Thing.

The book is about, well, the perilous adventures in the competition to measure the Earth. It sort of revolves around the Paris Meridian (which I didn’t know existed until I read this book) and spirals out to encompass many scientific endeavors. From finding the shape and size of the Earth, to measuring longitude, to how the world came to tell time, to GPS. It explores the dangers that the scientists faced and the competitive nature of the work. It is a very interesting topic. And a lot of it was new to me. I didn’t know these scientists and I was unfamiliar with their work. (Although I think if you lived in France you would have a much greater knowledge of these things.) I like to read about exploring and science and it was nice to be reading accounts that I had never heard before. But I found myself having to go back and reread a lot. Sometimes, I must admit, it was because Murdin was explaining some concept that a few introductory science courses way back in college didn’t prepare me to understand after one casual reading. Other times though the sentences got really long and were awkwardly constructed and I had to go back to figure out what was being said. This book took absolute concentration for me to read, I couldn’t have people around me talking, I couldn’t be in a room with the TV on. I needed to sit in silence and remain completely focused. I didn’t expect this to be a light easy read but neither did I expect to have to concentrate so hard that the slightest thing could make me lose the whole thread. I also didn’t care for the ‘asides’ that were inserted into the text. Every once in a while there would come a small section, in a smaller print so you could tell it from the rest of the text, to further explain who a certain person was or give more information about a place that was mentioned. Not that the information provided wasn’t interesting but it was shoved into places I’m not sure it should have gone and broke up the narrative that I was already having trouble following. The information was interesting and I did learn about a lot of things I didn’t know about before but I don’t think this is the type of book just any casual reader would want to pick up and read for enjoyment. Maybe the book just needs a more scholarly reader than me, or should that be I.

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