Watts, Laura. Energy at the end of the world: an Orkney Islands saga

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Author: E.N. Anderson
Date: July 2019
Publisher: American Library Association CHOICE
Document Type: Book review; Brief article
Length: 245 words

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Watts, Laura. Energy at the end of the world: an Orkney Islands saga. MIT, 2018. 421 p bibl index ISBN 9780262038898 cloth, $35.00; ISBN 9780262349659 ebook, contact publisher for price




The Orkneys are wild, windswept, lonely, and wave-battered-perfect for harvesting sustainable energy from wind and sea. Their former rural isolation has been broken by hordes of engineers, environmental experts, venture capitalists, and assessors of megaprojects. Watts (Univ. of Edinburgh) tells the story in poetic, evocative language, sometimes moving from surrealistic reality into initially believable fantasy. A range of distinctive characters and machines move across a landscape marked by 4000-year-old rings of giant stones, and an ancient mass tomb so stark that men have gone mad from taking shelter in it. This reviewer was waiting for the were-seals, central to Orcadian folklore, to appear (they arrive on page 340). The contrast between independent, mutually reliant Orcadians and the urban, sheltered outsiders is a theme of this work. Watts grounds her ethnography, unobtrusively but with expertise and depth, in modern literature on human responses to technology and environmental manipulation, from Donna Haraway to Susan Leigh Star. The book brought back powerful memories of those Orkney winds, and the spectral lines of windmills harnessing them in the sky. This book is for anyone interested in the coming of sustainable energy, and for anyone interested in Scotland's islands. Summing Up: *** Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates and above; general readers.--E. N. Anderson, emeritus, University of California, Riverside

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A593352538