Fifty years' worth of scientific and cultural adventure on the volcanism front Fisher (Geology/Univ. of Calif., Santa Barbara). Fisher offers an account of just what he was up to out there studying volcanoes, why they caught and held his fascination. He's not interested in proving his thoughts on pyroclastic flows or base surges, or in delineating the competition's ideas. Not that he doesn't introduce readers to his good friends tuff and scoria and the shocking nuee ardente (a volcanic hurricane of incandescent gas and particles). It's just that he's more interested in capturing the atmosphere of the old field days, when volcanologists tried to deconstruct their quarry--""determine the chemistry, unravel the history, and discover the eruptive cycles and the types of eruptions that have occurred""--by going out and hitting it with a hammer to see what they could see. The very idea of being stuck in a room with a computer, simulating small-scale sediment gravity flows, even for all its advancement of science, strikes him as not nearly as much fun as walking through lava tubes, taking in the sweep of a 40-mile-wide caldera, or having the chance to meet all the odd characters and eat all the weird food that comes with a life of travel. The best material here is the deeply affectionate portraits of the wild places to which his research took him, from the Pacific Northwest to China and the Caribbean. Pompeii and the ancient volcanoes of Europe were ""solitary but indescribably peaceful,"" places where Fisher lost himself in the slow creep of geologic time, his imagination conjuring ""great, roaring, glowing, orange-hot curtains"" of liquid rock or the cataclysmic eruptions that laid down the deposits that became his life's work. Appealing snapshots of a time when academic geologists wore boots, from one of its graybeards.