editorial reviews

“…Blum is a smart, imaginative, evocative writer who embraces the task of making his readers feel the wonder represented by these unprepossessing objects…So ingeniously beguiling is Blum’s way of conveying all this that, before you know it, you have acquired a sense of the basic structure of the Internet — from old-school exchanges to fiber-optic regeneration stations.”

Laura Miller, Salon.com

“[This] quixotic and winning book is an attempt to comprehend the physical realities of the Internet, to describe how this seemingly intangible thing is actually constructed…Valuable, comic…[Blum has] a knack for bundling packets of data into memorable observations. What makes Tubes more than an unusual sort of travel book, is [Blum’s] sense of moral curiosity.”

Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“An engaging reminder that, cyber-Utopianism aside, the internet is as much a thing of flesh and steel as any industrial-age lumber mill or factory. It is also an excellent introduction to the nuts and bolts of how exactly it all works.”

The Economist

“Engaging. . . . Full of memorable images that make the internet’s complex architecture easier to comprehend. . . . Blum leaves readers pondering questions that would not have occurred to them before and better informed about an innovation most of us take for granted.”

Iain Morris, The Guardian

“The year’s most original and stimulating ‘travel’ book … utterly engrossing … really does make the world more legible … even the most geek-wary of readers will enjoy.”

Boyd Tonkin, Independent (Book of the Week)

“Tubes is a great, playful, wondrous read—particularly for someone like me who self-identifies as a ‘wanderlust geek’—for those of us that aren’t network engineers.”

Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica

“Makes hard-to-grasp concepts easy to understand, even obvious. The history, in particular, is one of the best and most memorable I have ever read.”

- New Scientist

“Fascinating and unique. . . . [A] captivating behind-the-scenes tour of how (and where) the Internet works. . . . [Blum] has a gift for breathing life into his subjects.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Tubes is an absorbing tale of this new technology, as well as a wonderful account of the Internet’s growth and the people who made it possible.”

Sid Perkins, Science News

“Tubes is far more than a technical anatomy, revealing instead the broader implications of this seemingly ubiquitous parallel world that two billion of us inhabit, in one form or another, on any given day.”

Brain Pickings

In 2006 Alaskan senator Ted Stevens described the Internet as a “series of tubes,” a quip that earned the octogenarian widespread mockery. But as Blum notes in his charming look at the physical infrastructure that underlies the Web, Stevens wasn’t all that wrong. Bits sail through a worldwide network of fiber-optic cables and come together in junctions where Internet providers connect their pipes to the networks of others. Blum’s transcontinental journey exposes some of the important issues confronting the Internet, such as the occasional disconnect between the interests of the corporations who control the physical pipes and the good of the network as a whole. “If you believe the Internet is magic,” he writes, “then it’s hard to grasp its physical reality.” I’d turn this around: only by understanding the physical richness of the Internet can we truly grok the thorny forces that are shaping its growth.

– Michael Moyer, Scientific American Recommended Book

advance praise for tubes

“Every web site, every email, every instant message travels through real junctions in a real network of real cables. It’s all too awesome to behold. Andrew Blum’s fascinating book demystifies the earthly geography of this most ethereal terra incognito.”

— JOSHUA FOER, New York Times-bestselling author of Moonwalking With Einstein

 “Like some heroic cartographer from a Borges story, Andrew Blum plunges into the unseen ether of the Internet, in a journey both compelling and profound. For the first time Tubes brings the ‘network of networks’ into stirring, and surprising, relief. You will never open an e-mail in quite the same way again.”

—TOM VANDERBILT, New York Times-bestselling author of Traffic

“With infectious wonder, Andrew Blum introduces us to the Internet’s geeky wizards and takes us on an amiably guided tour of the world they’ve created, a world of wires and routers through which most of us daily wander, blinkered by our shimmering screens, but which few of us have ever really seen—or heard, or for that matter smelled. (Yes, the Internet has a smell, Blum is here to report.) Though less ethereal and a bit dingier, the Internet that Blum’s beautifully lucid prose makes real turns out to be if anything a more marvelous place than the cloudy dreamland we’d imagined.”

— DONOVAN HOHN, author of Moby Duck

“We think of the Internet as a kind of ether, a magical way of transporting words and images from anywhere to anywhere else. But there is a vast physical infrastructure behind all that magic, and in Tubes, Andrew Blum, one of our best writers on the built environment, discovers it and turns it into a compelling story of an altogether new realm where the virtual world meets the physical.”

— PAUL GOLDBERGER, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Why Architecture Matters