Gratuitous slaps at creation science didn't help to positively influence my opinion of this book, but ultimately this book just wasn't as well-written as expected from Winchester, renowned as he is for his popular scientific treatments such as
I bought this book assuming that since it was by a geologist, with a title referring to a geological phenomenon, the primary subject of "Krakatoa" would be geology.I was misled but nevertheless enchanted.Simon Winchester writes about the 1883 explosion (eruption would be the wrong word here) from every conceivable angle, including vulcanology and plate tectonics of course, but these subjects are accompanied by a history of the telegraph and the laying of transoceanic telegraph cables, the development … more
This book tells the tale of the eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 1883, with the resulting destruction and death of about 35,000 people. However, in addition to that story, the author has included page after page of info about the formation of the earth, the history of the East Indies, Dutch colonialism, geology, geography, plate tectonics, and a whole host of other, somewhat intersting, subjects. These additions really bog down the story, and at times tend to have the eyes glaze over while reading. … more
I really enjoyed this book. It was history written very much the way I like to read it. Obviously, that's a statement that has a lot to do with personal taste, and I can certainly understand why some reviewers here didn't react to this title in at all the same way. Simon Winchester has not given us a straightforward, journalistic, dispassionate, just-the-facts narrative of a discreet event, in which the mountain explodes on page one and the text ends when the ash stops falling, … more
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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It may seem a stretch to connect a volcanic eruption with civil and religious unrest in Indonesia today, but Simon Winchester makes a compelling case.Krakatoatells the frightening tale of the biggest volcanic eruption in history using a blend of gentle geology and narrative history. Krakatoa erupted at a time when technologies like the telegraph were becoming commonplace and Asian trade routes were being expanded by northern European companies. This bustling colonial backdrop provides an effective canvas for the suspense leading up to August 27th, 1883, when the nearby island of Krakatoa would violently vaporize. Winchester describes the eruption through the eyes of its survivors, and readers will be as horrified and mesmerized as eyewitnesses were as the death toll reached nearly 40,000 (almost all of whom died from tsunamis generated by the unimaginably strong shock waves of the eruption). Ships were thrown miles inshore, endless rains of hot ash engulfed those towns not drowned by 100 foot waves, and vast rafts of pumice clogged the hot sea. The explosion was heard thousands of miles away, and the eruption's shock wave traveled around the world seven times. But the book's biggest surprise is not the riveting catalog of the volcano's effects; rather, it is Winchester's contention that the Dutch abandonment of their Indonesian colonies after the disaster left local survivors to seek comfort in radical Islam, setting the stage for a volatile future for the region.--Therese ...