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Captain James Cook's three epic 18th-century explorations of the Pacific Ocean were the last of their kind, literally completing the map of the world. Yet despite his monumental discoveries, principally in the South Pacific, Cook the man has remained an enigma. In retracing key legs of the circumnavigator's journey, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz chronicles the cultural and environmental havoc wrought by the captain's opening of the unspoiled Pacific to the West, as well as the alternately indifferent and passionate reactions Cook's name evokes during the writer's journeys through Polynesia, Australia, the Aleutians, and the explorer's native England. Horwitz skillfully weaves a biography and travel narrative with warm humor that is natural and human-scale, and his restless inquisitiveness quickly infects the reader. While striking dichotomies abound throughout that journey--Maori toughs who adopt Nazi imagery to symbolize their own fight against white domination, millennia-old Polynesian sexual mores that would shame the Reeperbahn, a sense that Christianity decimated native cultures at least as effectively as Western venereal diseases did--few are more poignant than the ones that abound in Cook's own life. This fine work is an adventurous reminder that answers to historical riddles are elusive at best--and seldom as compelling as the myriad new questions they pose. --Jerry McCulley [via]