CARVING GRAND CANYON: EVIDENCE, THEORIES, AND MYSTERY, by Wayne Ranney, is the next logical book to read after the one he co-wrote with Ron Blakey, ANCARVING GRAND CANYON: EVIDENCE, THEORIES, AND MYSTERY, by Wayne Ranney, is the next logical book to read after the one he co-wrote with Ron Blakey, ANCIENT LANDSCAPES OF THE COLORADO PLATEAU. In ANCIENT LANDSCAPES, the authors describe the environments in which the layers of the Colorado Plateau formed and illustrate those concepts with paleogeographic maps. As you study those maps, you can't help but try to impose the Grand Canyon on them, since it's the feature that best exposes the layers. At what point, you may wonder, does the canyon begin to be carved?
CARVING GRAND CANYON is the best answer to that question. It narrates the attempt by geologists to formulate a unified theory of how the Grand Canyon formed and how long it took to do so. Once you've started reading it you'll realize that theory is – complicated.
Fortunately, it's also fascinating – a story of rivers and basins, faults and frost wedging, lava flows and karst collapse, personalities and plate tectonics. If you look at a map of the Canyon, from Lee's Ferry to Grand Wash Cliffs, you may suspect that it's not simply a question of how old the Colorado River is (though that's the most pertinent question). It's a question of what else can happen in a region that large, over millions of years during which several unique conditions persist.
One of the most interesting controversies is whether a paleocanyon may have existed, one that continued to be cut down to current levels in parts of the Grand Canyon. The graphic on page 124 beautifully illustrates the argument that a paleocanyon existed in Mesozoic layers above Eastern Grand Canyon that have since eroded away. The relatively new study of karst collapse near the Kaibab Upwarp also sheds some light on the mystery of how the river cut through the southern tip of the upwarp.
This book is for people whose curiosity burns when they look at the Grand Canyon, trained geologists and armchair geologists alike. It is lavishly illustrated with photographs, cross-sections, maps (some of which are paleogeographic), and diagrams that make the text clear and easy to understand. It offers a coherent answer to a question that is far more complicated than it seems. And best of all, it sparks as much curiosity as it satisfies. Buy two copies – one for your reference library, and one to take with you as you explore Grand Canyon, a place with enough wonder to fill a lifetime. ...more
I don't usually write reviews for the books of super-popular writers. They don't need my help to get exposure, and my voice would probably get lost inI don't usually write reviews for the books of super-popular writers. They don't need my help to get exposure, and my voice would probably get lost in the crowd. But this time around, I really feel compelled to write about Stephen King's new book, 11/22/63, not just because I liked the book so much, but also because I was so fascinated by the ideas in the book.
Like King, I lived through the early sixties. I was born in 1959, so I was only four years old when JFK was assassinated. But that event was so shattering, so enormous to ordinary American citizens, for most of my childhood it almost seemed like it had just happened. It seemed that way right into the mid seventies. Also, I lived in Phoenix, Arizona, and though it's the biggest city in Arizona, in the sixties it was a big farming community, with cotton fields stretching as far as the eye could see. Culturally speaking, we were at least a decade behind the America you could see on your TV screen. So JFK still loomed big in our world. Yet the first thing that I read in 11/22/63 that really made me think that time travel might be a wonderful thing to do was not the idea that maybe someone could go back and prevent the assassination of JFK. It was the root beer.
I could taste that root beer he described in the book. And in Arizona, that experience had an extra dimension: the root beer was ice cold. If it's 107 degrees outside, and the humidity is less than 5%, drinking an ice cold root beer is a heavenly experience. When I was a kid, I was usually on foot when I went after the root beer, and sometimes I was even foolish enough to go barefoot, though the pavement could be incredibly hot. So the root beer hunt was a perilous adventure, one that offered truly fabulous rewards.
Nostalgia clouds our memories of the past. In most books about time travel, that isn't much of an issue - people go way back in time. So in this case, it's interesting that the character is only going back about 50 years. It's even more interesting that he isn't from that decade himself, he won't be born until the mid-seventies. Nostalgia isn't driving him at all, though he certainly develops a healthy dose of it once he's able to experience that root beer, as well as other delightful artifacts. Many other artifacts he encounters are not so delightful: racism, sexism, small town bigotry, and a resistance to putting really good books like Catcher In The Rye in school libraries, where they would actually do the most good. A man without a mission might just visit the past occasionally, stick to the root beer and the inexpensive golden-age comic books, avoid the jerks as much as possible.
But Jake (masquerading as "George") does have a mission. In fact, he has more than one, and the JFK assassination isn't even the most important one. He has another rescue driving him, one that's a lot more personal, a friend whose life was changed by one terrible night when his father murdered the entire family. The friend was the sole survivor of that massacre, and was badly injured. Jake thinks first of him, and that's a good thing. If saving JFK was the only thing on his mind, that would be some serious hubris. Thinking you can stop the massacre of a family is also hubris, but most of us would try to do the same thing if we could. And like Jake, we would find out just how dangerous and daunting that is. First of all, guys who are capable of murdering their entire families possess a terrible vitality, and above-average cunning. Most people have no idea how to fight a dragon like that. So this is one of the many challenges facing Jake.
Another challenge is that time itself seems to resist his efforts. The deck is stacked against him. Can he defeat this law of nature? Yes and no, and that's the key to this book. I don't want to spoil it for you by describing what happens, you need to sit at the edge of that seat yourself. But this story really inspired me to reconsider the concept of time travel. Most scientists will tell you it's not possible. But people also said that about traveling faster than Mach 1, and we're way past that now. If you consider that anything is possible, then you have to consider that time travel is one of those possible things. And if it's possible, what are the consequences? That's what you'll find out when you read 11/22/63.
One more thing - I listened to 11/22/63 as an audiobook. The reader, Craig Wasson, was wonderful. He deserves an award for his performance. I'll be looking for more of his work....more