Over the Edge of the World

This book was alright.

I decided to pick this book up because of all the innovation happening in Space Travel today. I was hoping to find some parallels between today and another time in humanity’s past when a new frontier was within our grasp.

It was enjoyable to learn how most people viewed the frontier of that time, that common knowledge regarding the other side of the world was a combination of experience influenced by myth and how the overall lack of real knowledge was filled in by entertaining guesses and while the lack of credibility was well known, it was generally accepted as truth.

I supposed in the absence of real knowledge, humanity will grasp onto whatever makes the most sense to the current culture and priorities of the time.

The overall story of Magellan’s venture around the world was a bit anti-climactic. I was a little disappointed in how the summary and reviews kept referring to some of the most exciting bits of the journey, while the book seemed to gloss over them like the most exciting parts where the least important and hardly worth mentioning. Perhaps, this is similar to movies that are ruined by the previews.

Having read Moby Dick, the details of life at sea weren’t anything new, but I wondered if another reader would be able to appreciate the sacrifices these men were making.

The ingenuity of Magellan was a mystery the entire book. There wasn’t much said about his previous life and/or how he came to be a respected captain in a foreign country where the culture was all but outright hostile. After reading the book I could only assume he was extremely charismatic and downright lucky. This could explain his lack of real character in the end.

The most value I got from this book was the historical political context. It was interesting to learn about the political dynamics between Spain and Portugal. Even then, there wasn’t a lot said.

I’m glad I read the book, since it’s a story for the times, but I suppose I might have been expecting too much. The author himself details how little information there actually is on it and how the voyage’s main biographers seem extremely biased when it comes to some of the most important events.

Perhaps it’s a lesson than sometimes we just get lucky. Sometimes the most important events in humanity’s history are the results of a few lucky men.