Every now and then we are all experience moments of deep contemplation after having read a piece of literature whose original and implicit intent was to pique our interests in just about any given topic. I suppose if we make the effort to go beyond ‘page one’ then we know there is more than the gripping style of the author at work – there is something about the topic within that drives us to continue.

And so, I open ‘Underworld’ to page one

We all want to learn. Especially when it is either something we thought we already knew everything about or never knew existed beyond the remedial; understanding the basic concepts of the human body – for instance – can become ever more intriguing if we allow ourselves the opportunity to investigate the intricate details of the heart or brain. I can therefore confidentally say that this ideal applies comfortably to Graham Hancock’s latest literary event ‘Underworld’– exquisitely enhanced with the photography of Santha Faiia, by the by. Having been personally exposed to a ‘basic understanding’ of ancient submersed coastlines (and what secrets they may hold), his focusing of geological material, insights, and prowess to heighten the learning curve of the reader leaves no doubt about the level of fascination I experience concerning a potentially ‘forgotten’ and overlooked area of the sea. In any case, it certainly reaches into the upper end of the ‘charmed’ scale where readability is concerned.

A page is turned

All the same, it’s more about inspiration for the mind than some illusive or vampiric trance induction. Hancock is a great writer, and in past efforts (such as ‘The Sign and the Seal’ or ‘Fingerprints of the Gods’) there was an apparent reliabilty on wooing the reader’s passive intellect by making powerfully suggestive ideas seem real enough – although without explicit context involved. Not so with ‘Underworld’. Not by a long shot.

Indeed, the author goes to prolific lengths to impress upon us the remarkable plausabilities involved in his ideas on ancient history, not just ‘possibilities’. This time around there are two important cogs at work, making the book stand proudly and sincerely. They are,  1) The extensive use of highly accountable references and resources (seen in both professional personalities [Glenn Milne, et.al.] and qualified institutional publications), and 2) the everpresent atmopshere of caution. While the former is and was expected, the latter was a delightful surprise. It invariably tells me how absolute Hancock’s intentions are, and how he bases them on a level-headed and honest scientific approach.

I can say – with profound conviction – the opening chapters adhere to this all important method, furthermore embracing a compatability with truthful investigation. In fact, it is replete with cautionary notes, continually reminding the reader to take a calm, objective breath before accepting ‘this or that’ implication or possibility. This type of ‘philosophical’ prose is not merely a literal appendage for Hancock – it is a rather impressive approach, given how previous reviews took delight in frowning on its omission.

For the majority of chapters and sections I can honestly say I really like this book, but there is one area where the author briefly re-lives his old form of conjecture, and there is good reason for the reader to exrecise caution when coming across it. It is the section dealing with the ancient sea maps (the brainchild of Charles Hapgood in the 1960’s and originally touched on in ‘Fingerprints of the Gods’ by Hancock in the early 1990’s) and their possible sources being much older than currently accepted. For the purposes of investigation I would suppose bringing all scenrios to the table is – in the very least – the best idea, nevertheless, this particular avenue I found unnecessary and without solid merit. In general though, I would happily assert this is a mere glitch when set against the remainder of the book, so as to say that although the idea centers on suggestive antiquitous sources the peripheral gain of cartographical erudition is invariably pleasing. 

One antipodal area to the above especially worth mentioning is the investigation of Malta. And what an intriguining section it is for anyone unfamiliar with this small Mediterranean archipelago and its archaeological history! In and of itself Hancock’s Maltese inquiry would stand alone as a piece of strong investigative literature. What I found best is how additional questions seem to flow out of it, almost as if mandatory. Is there any better way to find answers? So when thinking in terms of how the ‘Malta’ chapters apply to the rest of ‘Underworld’ it is almost entirely impossible to come out of it without a newly untamed sense of wonder aimed at how much more really could be out there somewhere within the ancient sub-undulant regions of our planet.

Split and spread between the first and last pages there is of course segments dedicated to ancient India. I was absolutely amazed at the depth and intelligence of these wonderful people – both past and present – not to mention the broadly hinted detail of the countryside and the evocative renderings of the ancient texts. There’s more here than meets the eye, and the reason I say this is because at the time of this writing Hancock’s journey of discovery has escaped the confines of textual existence to have landed securely in the reality of new and interesting finds off the coast of India. What more could anyone hope to see come alive from an inspired suggestion? And what more can I do than to instill upon potential readers just how much it is nigh on imperative to pay special attention to these sections. It’s not only about what India has to offer; it’s about what every inch of inundated land the world over is waiting to reveal.

In deep thought, I turn the final page

Some may say the initiative-like thinking, writing, and presentation style of Graham Hancock has an audacious quality, pretty much for the reason of simply having challenged an existing paradigm, an interpretation of data, or explanation concerning the breadth of sentient, human chronology. After repeated perusals and long hours of appended contemplation during my reading sessions, my experience with ‘Underworld’ leads me to sincerely express my disagreement with any such tangential description. I do not see audacity; I see only innocent vision. I genuinely advocate making this book an essential part of any library dedicated to researching pre-history, noting it as an invaluable landmark publication. After all, an idea has to start somewhere. In time, we may need to remember where it all began where and when the Achilles of the Holocene was first penetrated. 

In closing

Underworld’ is like a rogue wave; an almost undetectable deep sea anomoly, carrying within its silent intensity the potential to arrive at shore’s breast finally revealing the nature of what it contains – a force of change wrought from the unexpected torrent of the sea. If we can see this book as the wave then what comes from it – what follows – is its child. And so, we close the final page, turning our newly inspired attention to the ocean for whatever potentially shattering discoveries await us.

Good on you, Graham. Well done.

By R. Avry Wilson