Silvana's Reviews > Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded

Krakatoa by Simon Winchester
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Jun 12, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: the-olden-days, nonfiction, book-club
Recommended for: those who have lots of reading time
Read from June 22 to 30, 2011

Wow. This has got to be the most out of topic (OOT) book I’ve ever read. It saddens me to only award it two stars. I usually have a soft spot for nonfictions *sigh*

Why on earth did I do that? Some of my friends rated it five stars, after all… Here’s a glimpse of my train of thoughts while reading this book. You’ll see why.

Beginning:

“Yay, finally I get to read this book. A nonfiction about (something major happened in) Indonesia, oh the excitement!...*reading the first pages* Hmm ok, spice trade….pepper….Dutch early occupation…I already know most of the things here…but obviously the author never intended this book only for Indonesians so okay lah…But…but now he’s talking about map making…what the…I have a baaaad feeling about this book…oh crap now he’s blabbering about J.P. Coen (first VOC governor general)…hmm ok some of the factoids are insightful but if he’s keeping this OOT streak….hmm now stories about living in (the old) Batavia…I knew that….and that…and that…*skipping*…where’s the frickin Krakatau story?...OMG tell me he did not just drone on the Wallace line (and his life story) and continental drift theories for 60 pages? Seriously? 60 pages? Couldn’t he shorten it to 5 pages max?” Seven hells!"

*closing the book* *pissed*

Almost in the middle:

“Now page 115 and I haven’t read anything exciting about the eruption….ok now about living in (the new Batavia)…Daendels….Rafles….Bogor….dance parties….*skip skip*….Ahhh now he’s finally talking about the earlier (suspected) eruptions of the volcano…interesting speculations…hmmm yeah this book is growing on me now….wait wait, why he’s giving me a history lesson about Lloyd’s insurance? And the submarine telegraph cables? I know they’re relevant to the story but the sudden “expositions” in the middle of the main story is upsetting me…. Oh wonderful…truly marvelous Mr. Winchester, now you’re yapping about the history of news agencies/Reuters….throw me some bones here…

*closing the book* *pissed*

Halfway:

“Yikes it took halfway to the book to get to the real story! Hmm ok….now I know the difference between volcanic and earthquake vibrations…early warning system turned out to be quite ok…reports from various sources including ships….LOL the Dutch was offering disaster tourism (unique factoid) with daredevils going to the islands, walking in calf-deep ash to check out the craters (while the volcanos were still preparing for the big bang and spewing smokes here and there)…..er…what was with the elephant chapter? So, apparently there was a circus troupe in Batavia a night before the kaboom and an elephant went panic. The author for unknown reasons (maybe he felt the need to give attractive title to his chapters) made a chapter titled The Curious Case of the Terrified Elephant, 11 pages, but the elephant itself was only mentioned in the last 2 pages. Kind of reflecting the content of the book itself, huh?”

*closing the book* *slightly pissed – getting used to it by then*

The crack of doom:

“Finally *flexing my muscles” (now I’m on page 209)  the book has at least 384 pages…..Whoa, great writing. Great facts. Quite gripping.

*concentrating* *frowned at some facts* *nodding in satisfaction* *feeling good for the first time when reading the book*

Near the end:

“Er….why Indonesian rebellion is discussed here? Now, now Mr. Winchester, you’re giving the eruption too much credit. *skip skip* Oh wow, a chapter about the Krakatau Jr. This is a must read. Uhuh. Yessir. This volcano is alive and kicking and close to me. I hope I’ll be long gone before it erupts again….Hmm wait..wait *flipping back a few pages* the book is over? But but…I only read something useful for about 150 pages…does this copy has missing pages? Am I dreaming?” *scratching my head in utter confusion*

*closing the book after realizing it wasn’t a dream and no missing pages*

Final thoughts:

Well, ok if the author could only write 150 pages why not make the book of only 150 pages of the REAL BLOODY DEAL? More than half of the book was about background stories, for Wallace’s sake! Why couldn’t he write like Dava Sobel in her enchanting (yet CONCISE) account about the invention of longitude (Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time) which is a far less sexy topic compared with a super volcanic eruption, I daresay.

Reading this book is like going to the movies, expecting to watch a drama-action movie, but interrupted with commercials and trailers on other movies even during some of the action scenes. Sorry, I am a very busy book-reader whose reading time is so valuable and hate to see it wasted. Thank goodness I only borrowed this book *putting it back on my boss’ shelf, kthxbye*
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Reading Progress

06/26/2011 page 42
9.0% ""Everyone knows that the male sex cannot exist without women..." (JP Coen begging the VOC leaders to send women to Batavia)"
06/27/2011 page 105
23.0% "Tbis book should be only 250 pages. Too nuch background stories here and there. Annoying."
02/03/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Silvana Amang wrote: "joget2 pompom..."

baru mulai baca today, sempet ga ya selesai sebelum Juni berakhir? :p


Helvry Sinaga hahhaa...buku ini memang banyak detilnya, sehingga nggak fokus pada krakataunya.


miaaa *ngebayangin sisil really pissed off*


Silvana seharusnya judulnya itu A Collection of Essays on Krakatoa and relevant subjects.


Grace Tjan "The author for unknown reasons (maybe he felt the need to give attractive title to his chapters) made a chapter titled The Curious Case of the Terrified Elephant, 11 pages, but the elephant itself was only mentioned in the last 2 pages. Kind of reflecting the content of the book itself, huh?”

Agree.

"“Er….why Indonesian rebellion is discussed here? Now, now Mr. Winchester, you’re giving the eruption too much credit."

Agree too. I don't find his theory of the Krakatau eruption causing 'radical Muslim' rebellion convincing. There were plenty of 'Muslim' rebellions before 1883 (Perang Padri, 1803, etc.).

I gave it one extra star, though, for the discussion on the science of plate tectonics.

Satu buku lagi yang ngalor ngidul nggak jelas:
At Home


miaaa LOL
btw sil, gw izin ngelink reviewmu yah di reviewku hahahaha


Silvana @Sandy: wuoh, gue belon pernah baca bukunya Bill Bryson nih. Tapi kalo dari judulnya sih kayaknya keliatan ngalor ngidul ya.

@Mia: sure, go ahead hehe


message 8: by Grace (last edited Jun 29, 2011 09:38PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Grace Tjan Silvana wrote: "@Sandy: wuoh, gue belon pernah baca bukunya Bill Bryson nih. Tapi kalo dari judulnya sih kayaknya keliatan ngalor ngidul ya.

Ceritanya kan subyeknya bagian-bagian dari rumah, tapi topiknya mbeleber ke mana2. Misalnya di bagian yang judulnya 'attic', isinya malah tentang Darwinisme & Marxism (apa coba hubungannya?).


Silvana Sandybanks wrote: "Silvana wrote: "@Sandy: wuoh, gue belon pernah baca bukunya Bill Bryson nih. Tapi kalo dari judulnya sih kayaknya keliatan ngalor ngidul ya.

Ceritanya kan subyeknya bagian-bagian dari rumah, tapi..."


Buset dah =))

Jadi penasaran, ada ga ya yg pernah bikin list buku paling ngalor ngidul sepanjang masa?


Grace Tjan Silvana wrote: "Sandybanks wrote: "Silvana wrote: "@Sandy: wuoh, gue belon pernah baca bukunya Bill Bryson nih. Tapi kalo dari judulnya sih kayaknya keliatan ngalor ngidul ya.

Ceritanya kan subyeknya bagian-bagi..."


Iya, apa ya? Kalau baca buku yang kayak gitu, jadi heran kemana tuh editornya? Mungkin karena penulisnya udah beken jadi nggak perlu diedit lagi?

Kalau yang fiction, ada juga tuh yang editornya kayaknya ketiduran:

http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

Penulisnya beken juga.


Matthews M. i enjoy the book.
books are like opinions on newspaper.
you might buy the whole idea and like it a lot (even think that the writer is smart even gifted) but then again there are some people that deemed the deal as unimportant, useless, complete waste of time.


Silvana Matthews M. wrote: "i enjoy the book.
books are like opinions on newspaper.
you might buy the whole idea and like it a lot (even think that the writer is smart even gifted) but then again there are some people that de..."


so basically, it depends to one's taste, no? ;)

I supposed you have no problem with the OOT tendency this book has.


Matthews M. it did drag on a lot on some parts.

but of course the writer has freedom to put her/his on interpretation of events in the history and maybe some parts that were put into it was to describe the magnitude of the eruption.

general readership won't understand if mr. winchester just told bare facts without going some length about what or why this was important. he did spark more interests on different topics that he mentioned in the passage.

i have another book from different author that have similar claim. somehow, krakatau's eruption showed religious (moslem) leaders that the white person are not that strong so that indeed added to reason why there are more fights from pre-indonesian people SINCE krakatoa blew itself into the sea.


message 14: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Mckay Thank you for referencing pages!! I'm on 80 and was considering abandoning it for good. Now I'll skip forward. Thank you!


Silvana No problem!


message 16: by Henry (new)

Henry Avila Brilliant review, Silvana. It reminds me of the terrible 1969 film Krakatoa East of Java , starring Maximilian Schell. Okay their geography wasn't too good, but it was so bad it was fun to watch...


Silvana Haha thanks. I won't watch the movie, nuh uh.


message 18: by melmarian (new)

melmarian I was seriously considering to buy this book and thankfully I read your review first. I don't think I can stand the "mubeng-mubeng" too...


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