Uneven, but of interest to readers with a bent for natural disaster—and to those keen on surviving it.




U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Jones turns in a glancing tour of natural calamities through time.

The “big one” of the title” is the earthquake that will someday level Southern California, one that will rattle seven times or more as long as the Northridge quake of 1994 and cause significant damage. In the ShakeOut exercise that the author led in 2007-2008, the model she employed presumed the destruction of 1,500 buildings and the loss of 1,800 lives, with another 53,000 or so injured. “Life will not return to any semblance of normality for quite some time for the residents of Southern California,” she writes. There’s a good book waiting to be written entirely on such a scenario, something along the lines of Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us (2007), but Jones moves on to less fruitful ground in examining the effects of other “big ones” on human civilization. Her take on Pompeii, for instance, is a little thin, and her speculation that natural disaster divides the blame-the-gods attitude of the Romans from the blame-the-humans attitude of the Jews again needs a book all its own. Much better is the author’s account of the catastrophic effect of the devastating Tangshan earthquake of 1976. According to the author, that quake played a major role in the deflation of the image of Mao Zedong as infallible and brought about the defeat of the leftists at the close of the Cultural Revolution. Inarguably, big disasters produce big political consequences, as witness another of Jones’ cases in point, Hurricane Katrina. The author gets points for her projection of how we will respond when the big one finally hits, with a mixture of conspiracy theory (the scientists knew but didn’t say) and blame, whether of FEMA or the government or “the sinners of the hedonistic La-La Land” for living there in the first place.

Uneven, but of interest to readers with a bent for natural disaster—and to those keen on surviving it.

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-385-54270-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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