[Review of Hardcover edition]
This is a tremendously interesting and engrossing book, on many different levels. "GoV", contrary to what the title might lead one to suspect, is NOT just a book about Mt. Vesuvius - it's a tour de force exploration of the effect of volcanic forces on people, on civilizations, on religion(s), on species and evolution in general, on the landscape, and even on the very formation of life itself ... and the author draws upon a wide array of scientific disciplines in order to tell the tale effectively.
In similar fashion to Brian Greene's "The Elegant Universe", the book opens with a bang ... or more specifically, with the origins of the universe, the formation of heavier elements in the hearts of stars, the evolution of solid matter (planets, asteroids and dark matter), the formation of volcanoes on those planets, and the role that volcanic forces play in the formation of life. From there, the author gives the reader an introductory taste of some of the possible connective threads between volcanic calamities of recent millennia, their appearances in (and possible influence on) religious accounts & beliefs, and how the tripartite aspects of creation, destruction, and preservation directly mimic the aspects of certain deities recurring throughout human history in various different religions ... a theme touched on indirectly by Fritjof Capra's Hindu-slanted poetic paradigm for viewing physical reality "The Tao of Physics".
From there, the authors pauses (in Chapter 3, "The Time Gate") to neatly tie together a broad range of different fields of human study into a single and innovatively coherent view of time. In it, the author telescopes backwards, in accelerating fashion, as he zooms further and further outwards - from recent history, through archeology (deep history), past paleontology (biological history), past geology (planetary history), and onward into astrophysics (stellar history) ... with major volcanic events as the connective thread every step of the way. A larger and more robust treatment of this material is also covered in a stand-alone novel entitled "Time Gate".
Next, the author reels the reader's time focus back in closer to home again, and delves into the heart of the book, and the author's chief love: archeology. In this case, the primary focus are the twin cities destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD: Pompeii and Herculaneum. The author treats us to a veritable smorgasbord of some of the written accounts dating near, relating to, or directly affected by the eruption:
* Historical accounts (ex: the Plinys, Democritus, Josephus, Spartacus the Gladiator, etc),
* Biblical references (ex: the Council of Nicea that originally collated, edited and winnowed down the scattered accounts of the time into "The Bible" as we know it today),
* Legal records (ex: the legal case of the ex-slave Justa who was suing to retain her freedom at the time of the eruption) recovered from the carbonized remains of a large cache of library scrolls.
Reading those accounts drives home in dramatic fashion the terrible and lasting impact Vesuvius had on both the personal lives of the people nearby, on the surrounding nations and empires, and on the bible itself ... effects that are being felt even today, in ways that we're only just now beginning to understand.
From classic archeology, the author then re-focuses closer still into the subtle nuances and intimate details offered by forensic science, and the oh-so-human stories that the latter is allowing to emerge from the archeological strata. The bones can literally speak to us now ... telling us their exact age & gender, their most likely profession and social status, their dietary habits, wounds and diseases they suffered from, and so much more ... details that truly reinforce that archeology is not just about biology or dead civilizations - it's also about individuals.
It was shortly after the author finished writing the draft of this book that history and fate played a cruel joke ... on September 11th, 2001, hijackers crashed two passenger jets into the Word Trade Center in New York City. The buildings subsequently imploded and down blasted into the Manhattan Bedrock, and massive debris clouds radiated throughout southern Manhattan, burying, damaging and destroying much in it's path. The resemblance to Pompeii and Herculaneum was uncanny ... and that brings us to Chapter 10, the final chapter of GoV, in which several archeologists (including the author) converge on NYC to study the still-fresh archeological record.
Central to Chapter 10 is the story of NYFD Ladder 4 that emerged from the archeological evidence, and subsequent attempts (by certain unscrupulous people) to censor/delay/suppress the publication of this very book for daring to tell the truth ... a truth that exposed an earlier journalistic claim (of looting) as a slanderous hoax. For the details on that matter, I refer interested readers to the author's official discussion forum, which contains a thread on that subject, with additional information by the author.
To conclude, GOV is a must-read for anyone who's interested in the sciences in general, in history (both real and biblical), and in the ongoing efforts by determined researchers to carry forward the bright torch of knowledge & truth across the dark wastelands of time, superstition, ignorance ... and sometimes across the barbed wire boundaries of 'accepted theory', through toxic pools of opportunistic lies, and through suffocating clouds of censorship.
To quote Dr. Pellegrino: "History [and Truth] will eventually have it's way ... it always does."
I enjoyed it immensely, and I was engrossed throughout, from cover to cover.
I'd also like to compliment the author for his steadfast commitment to "Keep faith with the dead", regardless of the risk to his career as a published author. I've seen some of the consequences of that decision, first hand.