Comparative profiles of 12 historical sites now and in their heydays, from Stonehenge to Macchu Picchu.
“Wonder” is conspicuously absent from this random, perfunctory, nigh-on-depressive archaeological tour that begins with the Great Pyramid at Giza and goes on in no discernible order. The entries mix staid, mechanically drawn, almost uniformly drab views of each site’s main structures now and in the past with narrative commentary. Rather than illuminating the lives or cultures of ancient builders, the text too often runs to equally bland bonbons: “There are frequent buses to and from Cairo”; “Angkor Wat is very important to the Cambodian people.” The entries are reasonably diverse of age and locale (four are European) as well as type: Along with the “lost” city of Petra and other ruins, the moai of Easter Island march in turn, as do the terra-cotta warriors of Qin Shih Huang. All of the large-format spreads feature big, shaped flaps and single or double gatefolds. But for every case where these are used to dramatic visual effect, such as a “now and then” of the Roman Colosseum (and even that is shown in a diagrammatic style), elsewhere lifting the flaps reveals no more than schematic alternatives to compare (the Parthenon), a smaller reconstruction set to one side (Stonehenge, Chichén Itzá), or just more images and bits of information (Petra, “Cleopatra’s Sunken City”).
Dry, dispirited, and unlikely to tempt armchair travelers to bestir themselves. (Informational novelty. 8-13)