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 An information-dense, beautifully illustrated tour of ten endangered landscapes. In all but a couple of cases, the islands of the title are metaphorical: They refer not to seagirt places, but to small patches of wilderness surrounded by developing areas, wilderness now under the protection of the Nature Conservancy. Campbell (The Crystal Desert, 1992) introduces us to ten such places, including the fast-disappearing Everglades of Florida; the volcanic hills of the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, now being invaded by introduced plants; and the Brazilian rainforest of Guaraquecaba, lying near the megalopolis of So Paulo and in danger of being clearcut for its valuable timber. Collectively, these wild places encompass, in Campbell's view, the best of ``this thin film of life . . . the only vital zone that we know of in the universe,'' lands that have not yet been altered in the interest of economic progress. He likens their preservation to the work of ``a physician treating wounded soldiers on the front line,'' a kind of environmental triage. Often his tours have a hurried feel, taking in too much data in too little space; the result is a text that, in places, reads like a preserve manager's biological inventory. This detracts somewhat from the narrative--a shame inasmuch as Campbell is so skillful a writer. We see little of Campbell himself, too, in this whirlwind tour, although his small personal touches--for instance, a remembrance of standing on a beach on the South Pacific island of Peleliu with five Japanese war veterans, ``mute and deeply saddened''--mark the book's finest moments. The excellent full-color photographs afford the reader an opportunity to see these places as the ecological treasures they are, reinforcing Campbell's argument that they should be preserved. All in all, a fine testimonial to the Nature Conservancy's ongoing work.

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 1996
ISBN: 0-395-68083-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1996