Slivers of Kirk’s sometimes funny, sometimes traumatic personal history overlap and complement and reflect one another throughout the book. He spends a good part of the book searching in Transylvania for a lost manuscript, purportedly the work of none other than the great Béla Bartók, and spends another large chunk of it organizing strange activities on the deck of a cruise ship navigating some of the world’s remotest waters. Interwoven with these threads are passages in which Kirk frets over his seriously ill father, who, in one video call, strikes him as looking, in Kirk’s words, about a million years old.
Having travelled the distance that Giggs takes us in Fathoms, it seems obvious that there is no choice: “Each of us now sharpens the focus dial on the future of the ocean, of the weather, of the whales and their kin.” Fathoms is a glorious, beautiful and deeply important book.
Redhouse is an exceptional science writer, and her research is extensive, making connections, incorporating anecdotes both personal and as part of her research, so that the overall effect is engaging, open-minded, informative and powerful. The hybrid effect allows for multiple perspectives that remain open-ended rather than didactic.
The writing is exquisite, poetic, and very detailed. Mahood’s observations are often minute explorations: a delicate rock formation, the texture of a rope, the sound of grass crunching under the feet, a sunrise, the smell of cooking, or an empathic exploration of a companion’s discomfort. Though Position Doubtful is sophisticated, charged as it is by ethical considerations, the political impact of government policy, and a deep-seated understanding – both visceral and intellectual – of the ethics of colonial occupation, power struggles, and feminist discourse, it’s also a personal journey and deeply moving.