2 out of 4 stars
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Space has famously been referred to as "the final frontier" by Star Trek, but the other "final frontier" that gets tossed around is the deep sea. According to Scientific American, "Less than 0.05 percent of the ocean floor has been mapped to a level of detail useful for detecting items such as airplane wreckage or the spires of undersea volcanic vents," as of October 9th, 2014. Being underwater also feels so freeing, and while I've never done it myself, I've always been intrigued by the idea of freely exploring underwater with an oxygen tank and scuba gear.
When I came across Dive by Michael McDuffie I loved the concept. According to the Amazon description, "This short story is for all those passionate or interested in scuba diving and spear fishing." As someone who's never been scuba diving but LOVES the idea of it, this sounded like the perfect way for me to dip my toes in! It's a fictional novel about a boy named Geo in Mexico. There were a couple men - Clark and Angelo - who came down regularly from Florida, and they paid Geo to help move their dive equipment to the beach. Over the years they also taught him about diving, until they surprised him with the tests he needed for his "basic, open water scuba diving certification."
Dive is a book about Geo's friendships, but it's also about his adventures diving and fishing with harpoons. Mostly the book is made up of moments where Geo and at least one other guy are swimming together. The activities are varied, from Geo's work trying to become certified to a friendly competition to see who can catch the biggest fish. The story itself is secondary, but it never felt like it was in the way of the lessons being taught.
On the other hand, the lessons felt like they were incomplete. I did learn a few things from this book, like the importance of going for your mask first if all of your gear gets scattered around (one of the tests Geo had to pass) or that people use a stringer underwater to hold on to their fish. However, the book often leaves terms (like "stringer") undefined, forcing the reader to look them up themselves. I also wish there was a bit more descriptiveness in some of the scenes. Geo and one of his friends, Tom, are hunting for a giant fish. They follow it into a barge while their air tanks are getting lower. This scene has lots of potential for tension, and while it mentions some things (like the sharp edges of the barge threatening to cut their suits), it was lacking. I understand that the author wants this to be a book to inspire people who are curious about scuba diving to try it out, and making scenes more tense may scare them off, but the story aspect felt like it was missing opportunities.
Dive tried to blend a narrative with educating people about scuba diving, but sadly it was a bit lacking in both parts. This would’ve led me to have a hard time deciding between 2 and 3 stars. However, I counted 6 errors total, including a couple sentence fragments (for example, "In hopes of getting a swim-by ambush attack on the fish, but nothing happened"), a missing word ("However, quickly lost sight of the monster fish"), and an unnecessary comma ("Geo waited, 'til last because"). Because of these, my rating of Dive is 2 out of 4 stars. It’s hard for me to recommend it to those who already scuba dive because the narrative isn’t strong enough, and it’s hard to recommend it to others interested in scuba diving (like me) because I was left wanting more information. Maybe families who want to dive together can read it to their kids between 11-18.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that Michael has two other books on Amazon: Hold On and Fly. Fly is actually a short story from Hold On, which made me realize something: maybe if there was a full novel-sized version of Dive too it would fix almost all of my issues with it. 52 pages just weren't enough to accomplish everything Michael aimed to do.
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