SEAWEED CHRONICLES: A WORLD AT THE WATER’S EDGE

Seaweed is not a weed. In fact, it’s not even a plant. It is a multi-celled algae. And nobody explains the history and value of seaweed better than Susan Hand Shetterly in her new book, “Seaweed Chronicles.”

As a natural science writer, Shetterly joins the excellent company of other Maine natural science writers like Bernd Heinrich and Hannah Holmes, telling the seaweed story in engaging, entertaining narrative. As a resident of Morgan Bay, east of Blue Hill, she studies seaweed — its history and biology, natural habitat, wildlife sanctuary, commercial uses and the challenges of properly managing the harvesting and conservation of this valuable natural resource.

Shetterly deftly combines the science of seaweed with its commercialization as a human food source and industrial product use, as well as a water and air purifier and as a potential future source for bio fuels. She points out that seaweed is rapidly becoming a global food source, harvested wild from the oceans or grown in aquaculture farms, especially in China, Chile, Norway, France, Indonesia, the Philippines and Maine.

There are thousands of species of seaweed, all requiring flowing water and sunlight to grow and thrive. Seaweed provides food and shelter to countless varieties of fish, shellfish, birds and ocean critters (Maine fishermen and environmentalists have long understood the value of seaweed to fisheries). And now, certain varieties are a human food source, as well as an important ingredient in such products as ice cream, pudding, cottage cheese, toothpaste, cosmetics, pet foods, farm fertilizers, shampoos and medicines like iodine and burn bandages.

She also tells of the men and women who research seaweed and its uses and of their dedicated efforts to make policy and manage this essential natural resource, to both properly utilize the resource and protect it from overharvesting and depletion.

ONE GOOD THING

Float plane pilot Mac McCabe knows all about revenge, whether served hot or cold. If somebody threatens, insults or just annoys Mac (all politicians and corporate wonks), watch out. He will make you pay. And when Roscoe King, an arrogant, rich fat-cat hedge-fund billionaire almost kills Mac in a near mid-air collision, Mac decides to get even.

“One Good Thing” is central Maine author Patrick McGowan’s debut novel, about good people doing bad things for revenge and the chance to do one great good thing in their lives.

This is an ambitious story with a predictable and uneven plot as four amateurs try to pull off a complex kidnapping and monumental theft of $11 billion. The targets are two billionaires, King and William Price, heartless corporate thugs who close the local paper mill, destroying the local economy and the livelihoods of hundreds of people. Mac already hates King, and the paper mill closing is the last straw. He teams up with his now-unemployed brother-in-law and two others to teach the billionaires a lesson, beginning a criminal conspiracy that will involve computer hacking, kidnapping, theft, corrupt offshore bankers, violence, torture, terrorizing and a surprising willingness to kill.

This is like “Ocean’s Eleven,” minus seven and without George Clooney and the smooth elan of crooks who know what they’re doing. Mac’s gang trains, plans and rehearses, and their scheme comes off almost without a hitch. Almost. Unfortunately, they talk too much, make dumb mistakes and hook up with a ruthless Cayman Islands banker who is a real criminal.

Their dream is to use the $11 billion to set up a single-payer healthcare system for New England (that’s McGowan’s dream, too); however, the conclusion leaves too many unanswered questions, like where did the money really go?

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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