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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Real History of the End of the World: Apocalyptic Predictions from Revelation and Nostradamus to Y2K and 2012 » User review

Interesting insight into the eternal wait for .... the end

  • May 9, 2010
This is rather a difficult book to classify, as I haven't read it as a history as such, but rather an interesting overview of how we human beings apparently have, throughout time, been patiently (or impatiently as the case may be) waiting for the end of time.

I confess to being a keen devourer of apocolypse and post-apocolypse fiction, so it has been very interesting to read how different societies have considered that perhaps all that we have will soon enough come to an end, usually based upon the cumulative evils of loose living and disrespect for one's deity. Indeed, much has been said in recent times of our modern world's moral and economic collapse, and some people genuinely believe that we are living in "end times".

If you believe this and think that this will give you further insight, this is NOT the book for you. Sharan Newman has a rather wicked sense of humour, which I appreciate immensely (for example when discussing horned beasts which are prevalent in many texts she comments that there must be a nest somewhere, probably in the bottomless pit), but I can see that this might not be the case for all. She does not labour on the beliefs of any particular faith, though The Bible is regularly mentioned as it is so well studied; and she does address the beliefs of the monoethist religions, as well as those brave individual souls who have, over time, announced that the world will end on such and such a date, only to be disappointed and forced to recalculate their stance. Even Nostadamus gets a chapter, as does the hype and hysteria that surrounds the Y2K bug.

This is a really unusual, interesting and entertaining book, and which offers one final interesting insight - people who strongly believe that the end of the world is nigh, usually believe that they will be saved. I think this quite a telling point.

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Lesley West ()
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In this cogent history, novelist and medieval historian Newman (The Witch in the Well, The Real History Behind the DaVinci Code) takes a cheerfully skeptical view of end-of-times prophesies beginning with the many flood stories of pre-historical Mesopotamia (including Noah's Ark), and ending with modern apocalyptic visions like the Branch Davidians cult, the contemporary Christian idea of rapture, and the (secular) Y2K scare. In between these bookends, Newman dips into the apocalyptic beliefs of early Christians (such as the vision of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse), Chinese Daoism, the fictional 12th century magician Merlin ( "associated with prophecy" throughout Europe for more than 800 years), and the increasingly infamous Mayan calendar that supposedly "ends" on December 21, 2012, a false prophesy Newman attributes to commentators who don't understand the writing, religion or archaeoastronomy of the ancient civilization: "the Mayans, like the Egyptians, were more concerned with keeping the world going than with when it was going to end." Entertaining and well-footnoted, this guide to the ends of the Earth will inform skeptics but is unlikely to sway believers.
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ISBN-10: 0425232530
ISBN-13: 978-0425232538
Author: Sharan Newman
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Berkley Trade
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