Andrew Valen's Reviews > Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded

Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
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's review
May 15, 2011

really liked it
Read in May, 2011

Prolific American writer Will Durant once said, “Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice” (Winchester 299). These words epitomize Krakatoa, The Day the World Exploded August 27th, 1988. This book was a compelling and intense true story about a volcanic eruption on a tiny island in the Sunda Straight between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. Simon Winchester did a wonderful job of explaining a geographical disaster from the ground up. Initially, Winchester made a correlation to early mariners and geographers and their perception the world via voyages during the Asian Spice Trade. Then, he built up into the processes and reasons for explosions and earthquakes that could have led to a something like the Krakatoa explosion. He offered theories that were tested and in some cases warranted over the past 1,000 years. Touching on processes such as plate tectonics, subduction zones, remanent magnetism and transform faults just to name a few. All of which he carefully and in plain English explained how it affected the explosion that took over 36,000 lives and turned billions of tons of rock into vapor. Also, there were countless diagrams and illustrations to give the reader a visual experience of how everything took place. Finally, Winchester explained the days leading up to the explosion and the immediate and lasting impact it had on the world.

Overall, Simon Winchester did an outstanding job of portraying this event and bringing to life the implications of what happened. It is not easy to take a geological disaster and discuss the science and history behind it while still appealing the audience and keeping their attention. Hearing the title, “the day the world exploded” catches the reader’s attention and is very real. What the reader may not know from the title is that it reflects many aspects. Yes, Krakatoa did explode and unfortunately kill thousands of people, but it also shocked the world and brought about many new things. “It took an event like Krakatoa’s eruption- which astonished an entire educated world- to underline the real revolution that this new technology was visiting upon the planet” (Winchester 182). Krakatoa may have been the first light shed on globalization due to its spreading of technology and connecting of a global community.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, geology, or in learning about plate tectonics and why this natural disaster took place and was more powerful than any other natural disaster in the history of the world.
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