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Profusely illustrated and oddly charming, this hybrid of tall tale, oceanography and ancient history is written with a sophisticated sense of whimsy. In the opening chapter, the mysterious Atwater, a (fictional) oceanographer, alerts the author to the existence of Atlantis. Sullivan (Flight of the Reindeer: The True Story of Santa Claus) then pursues the Atlanteans through (actual) library research and dozens of (actual) interviews. The real Atlantis, mentioned in Plato's dialogues, was a Greek island destroyed by a volcano. Condemned to live in the ocean, its human inhabitants, according to Sullivan, "coveted (and eventually developed) sonar capabilities equal to the porpoise's and electronic sensing instincts like those of the hammerhead shark." Today's Atlanteans are peaceful, intelligent and very funny: they "miraculously saved" Titanic survivors, but sabotaged the floating set of the movie Waterworld. On a more serious note, the fictive Atlanteans' health is endangered by very real marine pollution. Sullivan describes (actual) Victorian archeologists' digs at Troy and Crete and explains how volcanic eruptions work. Biologist Bill Gilbert (How Animals Communicate) explains how whales' mammalian ancestors returned from land to sea. And literary critic Christopher Benfey outlines what Plato's fable of Atlantis may have meant. Wolff's many attractive drawings ably counterfeit ancient maps and naturalists' sketches. Once they disentangle the facts from the fish tales, readers will finish Sullivan's book amused, enlightened and perhaps even moved to save the creatures who really do live in the world's great oceans. Agent, Sloan Harris. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.