Summary and book reviews of The Devil's Teeth by Susan Casey

The Devil's Teeth

A True Story of Survival and Obsession Among America's Great White Sharks

by Susan Casey

The Devil's Teeth
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2005, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2006, 304 pages

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Book Summary

A journalist's obsession brings her to a remote island off the California coast, home to the world's most mysterious and fearsome predators -- and the strange band of surfer-scientists who follow them.

Susan Casey was in her living room when she first saw the great white sharks of the Farallon Islands, their dark fins swirling around a small motorboat in a documentary. These sharks were the alphas among alphas, some longer than twenty feet, and there were too many to count; even more incredible, this congregation was taking place just twenty-seven miles off the coast of San Francisco.

In a matter of months, Casey was being hoisted out of the early-winter swells on a crane, up a cliff face to the barren surface of Southeast Farallon Island -- dubbed by sailors in the 1850s the "devil's teeth." There she joined Scot Anderson and Peter Pyle, the two biologists who bunk down during shark season each fall in the island's one habitable building, a haunted, 135-year-old house spackled with lichen and gull guano. Two days later, she got her first glimpse of the famous, terrifying jaws up close and she was instantly hooked; her fascination soon yielded to obsession -- and an invitation to return for a full season. But as Casey readied herself for the eight-week stint, she had no way of preparing for what she would find among the dangerous, forgotten islands that have banished every campaign for civilization in the past two hundred years.

The Devil's Teeth is a vivid dispatch from an otherworldly outpost, a story of crossing the boundary between society and an untamed place where humans are neither wanted nor needed.

Peter's weather prediction held. As the light came up and I stepped outside I saw that the fog had dissolved, the ocean was unveiled, and the jagged contours of another Farallon, Saddle Rock, were crisply in focus for the first time since my arrival. Saddle Rock reared out of the water only two hundred yards southeast of the main island, and from certain angles it looked exactly like a dorsal fin. Cormorants bunched along its edges, forming an elegant black picket fence. It marked the divide between Mirounga Bay (where the Rat Pack hunted) and Shubrick Point (where the Sisterhood reigned). Many an elephant seal head had been lost in its shadow.

Scot and Peter and I drank our coffee on the front steps, looking out at the water glimmering in the early light. There was a feathery wind and a handful of ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It's difficult to decide who is the most compelling contender for the role of "star" in Casey's book. Is it the sharks, the islands, or the surfer-scientists who choose to live their lives studying the sharks in this extraordinary place? Or perhaps it's the one remaining sea-urchin diver who still works the area, elbowing sharks out of the way as he goes about his business! All in all, a gripping read (pun intended!) and highly recommended!   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (244 words).

Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Louise Jarvis Flynn

Susan Casey's lively portrait of life among Northern California's white sharks and the dogged researchers who study them indulges in just the right mix of anxiety, gore and reassuring shark science. One can find reason to fear the waves and then muster the courage to enter them, usually within the same chapter...The sharks are the stars of Casey's story, but the Farallones steal the show.

San Francisco Chronicle - Paul McHugh

[A] page-turner. . . Gives you a way of reaching these mysterious isles without getting wet. Or seasick.

Kirkus Reviews

Handles close encounters with visceral intensity, then handily details the scientific achievements of the project...She captures the spooky feel of the Farallones-its sheer cliffs, massive bird and seal populations, fogs and green flashes and Specters of the Brocken -- as well as its dramatic weather.

Publishers Weekly

From its startling opening description of scientists racing to the bloody scene where a shark has decapitated a seal, this memoir-cum-natural and cultural history of the Farallon Islands - "the spookiest, wildest place on Earth" - plunges readers into the thrills of shark watching.

Booklist - George Cohen

Casey, a development editor at Time Inc., joined the biologists for eight weeks to gather material for the book....The result is a detailed and absorbing account of these awesome creatures.

Author Blurb Linda Greenlaw, author of The Hungry Ocean
I read Susan Casey's book in a feeding frenzy, satisfying my curiosity while fueling my fascination with sharks. A thoroughly researched and well-written piece of literature that raises hairs as well as tickling funny bones, The Devil's Teeth artfully reveals what lurks in the shadows of the mysterious great white and the people obsessed with them. The true triumph of the book, though, is in Casey's transcendence of mere journalism - she's clearly embraced by the world of which she writes.

Author Blurb Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers
In delivering us to the Farallon Islands, and then into the souls of the magnificent Great White Sharks that populate its waters, Susan Casey has really delivered us into the DNA of our own beings. The Devil's Teeth is more than a shark story; it is an account of our instincts, our appetites, even our futures, all beautifully told by a writer compelled to know.

Author Blurb Mary Roach, author of Stiff
Susan Casey could write about guppies, and I'd want to read her book. I devoured this book like a shark.

Reader Reviews

T.C.

Good story...dumb author
When I started reading this book I was completely put off by the author's way of depicting her so-called knowledge on the matter of sharks. Myself, being quite knowledgeable on the matter of great whites, found it hilarious that an editor, not of any...   Read More

Todd

The Devils Teeth
This book was amazing. I've always been fascinated by Great Whites, but this book was more than that. I knew going in that it wouldn't be attack after attack and that was what was so great about it. It gave you an inside look of life on these ...   Read More

Jon

Devil's Teeth
I've read this book twice and both times I couldn't put it down. Ms.Casey's writing style is entertaining and I think the book does a great describing the islands and all the inhabitants. I didn't read it with the expectation of being scared by ...   Read More

Majormom

The Devil's Teeth
I ran right out to buy this after hearing it advertised repeatedly on NPR during the week of July 10, 2006. I was sorely disappointed -- not in the factual, first-person, superbly edited contents (I found NO misspellings and only the perfect and ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Did you know?....

  • Great Whites have about 300 teeth at any given time, arranged in multiple rows. According to the National Parks Conservation Association they can shed up to 50,000 teeth in a lifetime (hence sharks teeth are the most widely found fossil).
  • Humans don't taste good to sharks - even the fattest of us aren't fat enough for a shark's taste buds. Seals are their meal of choice, preferably baby seals which are 50% fat. This is why most shark attacks are on surfers (whose boards resemble the shape of a seal when seen from below). So, if you must surf in water where sharks are known to congregate (which is pretty much anywhere one ...

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