Customer Reviews


43 Reviews
5 star:
 (14)
4 star:
 (18)
3 star:
 (11)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes environmental studies as readable as a novel
Richard Tamblyn is a scientist who has a novelist's gift for storytelling and imagery. Instead of simply explaining the causes and effects of natural disasters like earthquake, volcano, tsunami and climate change, he unlocks their cultural resonance by means of metaphor and vivid eyewitness description. As with other literary-minded historians like Peter Ackroyd, Tamblyn...
Published on 22 Sept. 2009 by C. O'Brien

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A timely reminder.
Terra: Tales of Earth is an account of four cataclysmic events that have occured, taking eye witness accounts and historic documentation to give a fascinating insight into the power of mother nature. Modern science is also used to explain why and how these events happened. It is seperated into 4 main sections: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, starting with the Lisbon...
Published on 4 Sept. 2009 by Doh


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes environmental studies as readable as a novel, 22 Sept. 2009
By 
C. O'Brien (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Terra: Tales of the Earth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Richard Tamblyn is a scientist who has a novelist's gift for storytelling and imagery. Instead of simply explaining the causes and effects of natural disasters like earthquake, volcano, tsunami and climate change, he unlocks their cultural resonance by means of metaphor and vivid eyewitness description. As with other literary-minded historians like Peter Ackroyd, Tamblyn chooses a thematic structure for his book, which is divided into four long chapters named after the elements - earth, air, fire and water.

We don't just learn what caused the 1755 Lisbon earthquake: we explore the effect it had on the war between quasi-religious superstition and Enlightenment rationalism. Unable to believe God could destroy a city at prayer in just ten minutes while leaving prisons and brothels untouched, many moved towards a greater understanding of the randomness of nature underlying man's comforting constructions. Over and over again, Tamblyn evokes a sense of the powerful chaos of the natural world - in the tsunami following the quake, Lisbon's river rises up "to strike it in its hour of greatest need" as "the elements declared war upon the city".

Similarly, in the "air" chapter, which deals with the European "weather panic" of 1783, we learn how "the whole of Paris was about to be smothered by its sky". We watch events unfold largely through the eyes of man-on-the-spot Benjamin Franklin: his writings and those of other eyewitnesses of that summer with its dreadful clouds of hot, choking fog make the experience (caused by the eruption of a remote Icelandic volcano) seem as vivid a mystery as it must have been for those who lived through it. This personalised approach brings all the events closer - in "fire", we experience the devastating effects of Krakatau's eruption in 1883 not just through survivor stories, but via the poetry of poet-depressive William Cowper, for whom it was powerful proof of man's damnation.

The final "water" chapter tells the story of a Hawaiian tsunami in 1946 and its aftermath - drawing frequent thematic parallels with the deluge in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and society's reluctance to prepare adequately for disasters - or deal with them decisively when they occur.

A brilliant book - readable, resonant and deeply memorable. I shall certainly investigate Tamblyn's other books - such as the much recommended "The Invention of Clouds".
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How hope can rise from the ashes of despair, 30 Sept. 2009
By 
David J. Kelly (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Terra: Tales of the Earth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In this book Richard Hamblyn sets out to tell the history of four natural disasters that literally changed the world. Each of the events he describes altered human understanding of the world and advanced science and engineering's capability to deliver solutions to some of the effects of these disasters. He also compares these disasters with some modern examples, especially the Boxing Day Tsunami which happened while he was writing this book.

The four events described are the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, the strange fog of the summer of 1783, the eruption of Krakatau in 1883 and the Hilo Tsunami of 1946. In each he describes the event through the writing of eyewitnesses or from contemporary accounts. He sets the cultural and historic context and describes the modern scientific understanding of how each event occurs. He then describes the aftermath and how people reacted, especially those in authority. He looks at how each event advanced the science of studying the earth and in some cases how engineers and builders solved some of the problems these events threw up.

If this all sounds a little dry then that is the wrong impression to take. Some of the characters are vividly painted and the stories are often of great human interest. Hamblyn is an engaging writer and the book is an easy read, showing how human ingenuity overcomes superstition, apathy and ignorance to help ameliorate the effects of future disasters when the will and knowledge allow that to happen.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant. Brings natural history alive, 16 Oct. 2009
By 
Joanne K. Pilsworth (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Terra: Tales of the Earth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This was another book which I thought would keep me occupied whilst on holiday. I could not put it down. Taking a major historical event: earthquake, volcanic eruption, tsunami and the weather, the author has demonstrated though eye-witness records just how much each of the events have shaped future understanding of the effects of nature on the 'civilised' world.

If ever there was a book which advises us to learn from our mistakes, it is this. Lessons were undoubtedly learned, for example, in Hawaii, on how best to handle an incoming tsunami. I had to laugh at the stupidity of the 'surfer types', whose only thought was to ride this big incoming wave. Yet, that was the case then. Now, people realise the damage that an incoming tsunami can do, and know that the best thing to do is to run in the opposite direction. Similarly, the descriptions of tour parties going to see the Krakatoa eruption, with people oblivious to the risks they were taking.

I would say that this is a book which can be read by both 'science' types and 'humanities' types, as both sides can learn from it. Age-wise, I would say anyone over the age of 14 would enjoy this book. In terms of learning from primary sources in history, this book is a good demonstration.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Experience natural disasters first hand, 28 Aug. 2009
By 
 - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Terra: Tales of the Earth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We have probably all seen the series Earth Story, and its later reincarnation Earth, both of which provide a fascinating introduction to geology. This book follows a different course, following the build up to, occurrence and aftermath of each of four particular catastrophes viewed through eyewitness accounts.

Earth, air, fire, water. The four ancient elements before the periodic table gave us 92+ to play with. However, each of the four embodies a particular natural disaster, and we see one of each as though we had been there.

The book starts with the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. Most of the city was destroyed. But it doesn't stop with the destruction of homes, palaces and churches: many works of art were also destroyed, as were the records of Vasco da Gama's explorations. All these are gone forever as though they had never existed.

However, the aftermath lead to the first ever detailed record of an earthquake, detailed enough to allow us to now reconstruct what happened then. This was ordered by the then Prime Minister, who could be regarded as the first ever seismologist, Sebastião de Melo, Marquis of Pombal.

Read this if you are interested in geology, or to provide background reading for a school project.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic disasters brought vividly to life, 21 Oct. 2009
By 
J. Aitken (Glasgow Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Terra: Tales of the Earth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Richard Hamblyn describes four natural disasters under the following headings: Fire - The eruption of Krakatua; Water - The Hilo Tsunami; Earth - The Lisbon Earthquake; Air - European weather panic.

Each of the disasters is scrupulously researched using historical data and first hand accounts. If this sounds dull I can only say that in Hamblyn's hands each of the tales is vividly brought to life in the most exciting and satisfying way, without resorting to over dramatisation.This is an immensely readable book which I found enthralling. Anyone interested in the kind of natural destructive occurrences which occur on our planet will find much to enjoy in this extremely well written, informative and exhilirating read. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking story-telling with just a little science, 9 Sept. 2009
By 
Peter (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Terra: Tales of the Earth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a book about natural disasters. The four disasters described are the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, the bizarre "European weather panic" of 1783, the explosion that blew away the island of Krakatoa in 1883 and the Hawaiian tsunami of 1946. The choice of disaster appears to have been fairly arbitrary - there are, after all, plenty other natural disasters to choose from - but by limiting the study to a handful of examples, Richard Hamblyn is able to avoid merely cataloguing the events. All of the chapters have a variety of first-hand accounts of the disasters, presented as a narrative, together with some of the scientific background and at least some of the political and social context.

The Lisbon earthquake was an earthquake, tsunami and firestorm that destroyed the grandest capital city of its time. The "European weather panic" was a massive and long-lived cloud of volcanic particles that largely blotted out the sun for the whole summer, causing the deaths of many infirm people, and also causing the following winter to be bitingly cold. It is told partly through the eyes of Benjamin Franklin, the American scientist and politician, who was in France to pursue the cause of American independence from Britain.

I found the chapter on Krakatoa (called here Krakatau) to be especially vivid, with a number of perspectives from those serving on ships and working in the colonial services in Java and Sumatra, including some of the telegraphic messages sent at the time: "All gone. Plenty lives lost". In the fourth and final chapter, many of the inhabitants of Hilo were surprised to see that the sea had retreated several hundred metres and wandered down to look at the stranded sea-creatures - only to be overcome by several tsunamis in succession that had raced through the deep Pacific water from Alaska at several hundred miles an hour, only to get slowed down and banked up as the ocean became shallow around the Hawaiian archipelago.

All of these disasters (earthquakes, volcanoes, sulphurous clouds of volcanic particles, and tsunamis) were - and will continue to be - a consequence of the fluid nature of our planet. Volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis all result from the long-term cycling of material onto the surface of the earth and its subsumption back into the magma pool. Global warning caused by our activities is a very real threat to our descendents' wellbeing, but what we can do to the planet is nothing compared with what it is capable of doing to us.

Hamblyn gives us plenty to think about. His book is a healthy mix of history, a little science and narrative - good old fashioned story-telling.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good read and thought provoking, 31 Aug. 2009
By 
A. J. Parkes "sekrapa" (Dudley, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Terra: Tales of the Earth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I did not have to high hopes for this book, as how can you make disasters from years ago interesting, fiction yes, but fact it is difficult. However, I was pleasantly surprised as the 4 events are told in such a way that it is fascinating to read about them.

Eyewitness accounts from years ago (published in papers, journals etc and researched from archives) provide an insight as to what it must have been like at the time to have been part of these terrible events. The details paint some horrific scenes and you can imagine what would happen today if these were repeated.

The events are broken into 4 categories, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and the events told are 1755 Lisbon earthquake, 1783 weather panic, 1883 eruption of Krakatoa and the 1946 Tsunami. I had not heard of the first two before reading this book.

At first, I thought it was going to be a dull read, as only a few pages described the happening of the Earthquake. However, the rest of the section was detailing what witnesses saw. This got me interested in reading more and more. My favourite section being the Fire section on Krakatao.

The only drawback I had was instead of splitting into 4 sections labeling each event as earth, fire, air and water, it should just been labelled as the events, as the events went into 2-3 of the other events. For instance, the Lisbon earthquake also produced a Tsunami and there were large fires throughout (3 of the 4 elements). Nevertheless, that is me just being picky.

Overall, a good read for anyone interested in history, geography or natural disasters.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars forces of nature, 30 Aug. 2009
By 
Paul Tapner (poole dorset england) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Terra: Tales of the Earth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Earth. Air. Fire. Water. the four forces of nature. In the teeth of which humanity can be very powerless.

Richard Hamblyn here tells the story of four such instances when these forces of nature had that effect on people. the lisbon earthquake of 1755, the strange weather that hit the skies of europe in 1783, the eruption of Krakatau [not Krakatoa as it's commonly misspelt] and a tsunami that hit hawaii in 1946.

Each section of the book deals with one of the above incidents and runs for roughly sixty pages. It details the background to the disaster. What happened right afterwards and how people responded. And what humanity did as a result to learn a lesson from it.

This takes about ten pages to get into, but once you do it's a highly absorbing book. I'd never heard about the events of the first two sections so they were fascinating bits of history to read about. The first part can be a bit harrowing in it's description of the aftermath. The third part is gripping reading when you hear of the loudon, a ship that battled four tidal waves and managed to stay afloat and upright as the volcano erupted.

And in the light of the asian tsunami of 2004 - which is mentioned in the foreward and in the final part - the last section is very interesting reading. not least as to how disaster warning systems can fall foul of government cutbacks. The latter is a point considered in a thought provoking afterword from the writer.

complete with maps and technical data and plenty of pictures, plus all the notes and information as to further sources that you could possibly hope for, this is a fascinating read. And food for thought with it
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweeping account of the power of nature, 29 Aug. 2009
By 
Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Terra: Tales of the Earth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Using the 4 elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water, as broad headings the author has produced detail accounts of four catastrophic events in the recent history of the Earth. He has chosen the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 that flattened the city; a panic in Europe over freak weather conditions in the summer of 1783 associated with a dense, reddish and sulphureous cloud that blotted out the sun led to terrifying thunder and lightening storms for months; the volcanic eruption of Krakatau in 1883; and the tsunami that devastated Hawaii in 1946. Although these separate events are to represent the four elements they inevitably involve overlapping effects, e.g., many earthquakes trigger tsunamis as we all know from the terrible events of December 26, 2004 and volcanic eruptions can alter the weather.

The book is a mixture of: first-hand reports, that give a sense of immediacy to the descriptions; a lot of detailed background history of the period in which each event took place and how the event altered that history; biographical details of the key people around at the time; and quite a bit of modern science to explain how these events came about as well as the, sometimes bizarre, contemporary explanations, including the wrath of God. The breadth of information contained in the book is remarkable and must have involved a great deal of scholarship. However, it is not a turgid text as the author writes in a lively almost journalistic style that draws the reader into the narrative.

Although the book necessarily contains a great deal of human misery there are optimistic strands to the narrative relating how a disaster can trigger research leading to new knowledge in the fields of geology, meteorology, building design and the setting-up of warning systems. It's sad that the experience of the 1946 tsunami in Hawaii, though it led to a Pacific Ocean early warning system, it didn't lead to a similar system in the Indian Ocean that would have spared so many lives in 2004.

I have the paperback version. It has a clear typeface that's easy to read and there are a small number of colour pictures embedded in the text. There will also be 35 illustrative pictures as well, but I haven't seen them as I saw a pre-publication copy. However, this was no great loss as the author describes events so vividly I could see the pictures in my mind's eye
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dramatic, well-told science history, 29 Aug. 2009
By 
Mr. Stuart Bruce "DonQuibeats" (Cardiff, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Terra: Tales of the Earth (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Richard Hamblyn picks four major natural disasters between 1755 and 1946, each one caused by a volcano or an earthquake, and looks at each disaster from every angle you could think of. Eye-witness accounts, scientific studies and newspaper reports are combined to give a really full picture of each tragedy.

The narrative approach is excellent. Hamblyn knits together different eye-witness reports, and tells the story of each disaster in a time-organised manner- setting the scene of the local culture before it happened, bringing the chaos and terror of the disaster vividly to life, and then considering the aftermath. It is excellent dramatic writing.

It's not just drama though- this book has history, geology, social science, theology, ecology, politics and lots more besides. This book can't be pinned down to any one discipline, and includes engaging and interesting nuggets of each aspect, in just the right proportion.

The four chapters are called Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Whilst this might be associated with pre-elemental 'old' science, one of the running themes throughout is the effect that these disasters had upon science and theology, and how one by one they heralded the development of human thinking out of the scientific Dark Ages where everything was 'God's unquestionable will', into the modern sciences of today.

I may have made it sound a bit dry, but it's not, it's a very engaging book. As well as recommending this book to adults, I'd recommend it to GCSE or A-level students, as a book that really demonstrates that science and history can be very relevant.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Terra: Tales of the Earth
Terra: Tales of the Earth by Richard Hamblyn (Hardcover - 18 Sept. 2009)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews