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Review - Surviving Armageddon - Bill McGuire  

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There have been quite a few doom-laden books around telling us how the world is going to be destroyed by a super-volcano, asteroid impact or good old global warning. Even Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything dwelt lovingly on the effects of a super-volcano, and Bill McGuire, the author of this book had his own go at doom and gloom with a previous title A Guide to the End of the World. But though Surviving Armageddon still has all the elements of destruction, as its subtitle "Solutions for a Threatened Planet" suggests, it spends as much if not more time on positive solutions to disaster as it does on what can go wrong.

It's not that McGuire, Professor of Geophysical Hazards (neat job title) and a volcanologist (or vulcanologist as used to be the proper English term before Mister Spock confused things) is vastly optimistic, especially about the dangers of global warming if some countries, particularly the US, don't start to act, but rather that he puts forward a spectrum of proposed solutions from sensible to downright loony, and picks out the most useful possibilities, then like the rest of us, crosses his fingers that the powers that be will get it right.

On the whole it's a very good book (and thankfully doesn't follow the trend to ridiculously fat tomes - it's a sensible, easily readable length). McGuire has a light, irreverent style, though does occasionally slip into preachy or schoolboy styles. There's also some patchy copy editing - on a single page we both read that two things are "very different bests" and are faced with a blatant lack of question mark that totally spoils the flow in this sentence: "But at heart, just how different are the two."

Don't let those minor flaws put you off, though. McGuire has an important message, and unlike the books that just tell us how things are going to go horribly wrong, he also has a sensible agenda for doing something about it. Can't be bad.

Only in hardback.

Reviewed by Jo Reed

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Last update 05 June 2007