James Sturz with Thomas Kohnstamm — 'Underjungle'

Deep below the surface, our world is cold, dark and content. Colors are fickle. Red disappears first as you descend, followed by the yellow of the sun. The hundred shades of blue last the longest, but eventually there is only black—and the candied ooze of the ocean floor...


Third Place Books welcomes James Sturz to our Seward Park store! Sturz will be discussing his new novel, Underjungle, a lyrical tale of love and war, encompassing the marine environment, science, art, philosophy and grief—as deep and surprising as life on the seafloor, where much of this story is set. He will be joined in conversation by Thomas Kohnstamm, the author of Lake City. This event is free and open to the public.

For important updates, registration is highly recommended in advance. This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured book.

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About Underjungle. . .

In Underjungle, an intelligent life form known as the yc exist in the ocean’s depths, an apex predator among most fish. Long ago, this species fractured from a single group into seven distinct tribes, each with their own dialect and cultural idiosyncrasies. Now, one tribe, the Gjala, has stumbled across a most intriguing and unusual object: a sunken corpse. As news travels across the ocean, and the other tribes converge to investigate, the consequences and questions raised will reverberate for generations to come.

Underjungle asks readers to give themselves up to another world: to step outside not just of themselves, but of their species. A broad metaphysical story of fantastical world-building from accomplished journalist and nature writer James Sturz, Underjungle is a lyrical tale of love and war, encompassing the marine environment, science, art, philosophy and grief—as deep and surprising as life on the seafloor, where much of this story is set.

Buoyed by humor and tinged with the unshakeable melancholy of loss is the existential question that forever ties the novel to our human experience: what is our purpose?


Praise for Underjungle. . .

"Underjungle is poetry, fantasy, love, war, mystery and philosophy. This book will make you think about the ocean in ways you haven’t before, and that might just make you want to protect it. I’ve dived with James, and I'm pleased to see that he has created this fascinating and complex story about the ocean and our deep connection to it."
—Jean-Michel Cousteau, Ocean Futures Society

"Gorgeously weird and weirdly gorgeous. Underjungle is a mesmerizing dissection of the best and worst of us, set in an undersea world untouched by humanity, so vividly and masterfully drawn that it feels both foreign and familiar. I have never read anything quite like it. Cleverly poetic, sometimes uncomfortable, and occasionally hilarious, but ultimately an ode to the wonders of depths unexplored."
—Shelby Van Pelt, author of Remarkably Bright Creatures

"Not many of us would have the audacity to write a novel where the only human character is a corpse decomposing on the ocean floor, but in Underjungle James Sturz has met this challenge in dazzling fashion. To get a more intimate view of the world under the waves you'd probably have to become fish food yourself, so instead I recommend this profound and unclassifiable novel, a mind-expanding Aeneid of the seas."
—Ned Beauman, author of Venomous Lumpsucker and Boxer, Beetle

Underjungle is a wondrously beautiful tale told in language that made me feel I was breathing the atmosphere of an exotic and miraculous planet. Of course, I was. But the most amazing thing is that, the whole time, I was breathing underwater.”
—Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and Beyond Words

James Sturz grew up in New York City, snorkeling in his bathtub and pretending the living room shag carpet was finger coral. Now based in Hawaii, he has covered the underwater world for The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, Outside and Men's Journal, among many publications. His fiction and journalism have been published in 18 countries and translated into nine languages. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University and is a PADI Divemaster, free diver, and Explorers Club Fellow. His first novel, Sasso, was set in the caves of Basilicata, Italy, very far from the water.

Thomas Kohnstamm is the author of the novel Lake City (Counterpoint) and Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? (Crown). He was born in Seattle and lives there with his wife and two children.

Want a signed edition of the featured book, but can't make it to the event? Order through our website or over the phone, and write your request for a signature or personalization in the comments field at checkout. Please call the hosting store if you're placing your order within 24 hours of the event.

Third Place Books Events Code of Conduct: Third Place Books is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of event attendees and guest authors, during both online and in-store events. By registering for this event, you are agreeing to refrain from engaging in inappropriate behavior and harassment of any kind throughout the course of this event (i.e. racial slurs, profanity, hate speech, spam comments, etc.). Please note that any participants who engage in inappropriate behavior or harassment of any kind will be immediately ejected from the event.

For media inquiries, access inquiries, or questions about our Covid-19 policies, please email events@thirdplacebooks.com or call our Lake Forest Park store at (206) 366-3311.