Top critical review
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Very condensed, but interesting and informative.
on 5 May 2012
When this series claims to be history "in an hour", it really means it - this is a very short book indeed! It also wasn't particularly well written: no major grammar errors or anything so poor, just a rather dry style most of the way through.
That said, there is a good deal of information packed into this one short book, and I also appreciated the various pictures of important characters in the story of the ship, pictures of interiors from Titanic's sister ship, and so on.
The book's strongest portion, for me, was on the fatal part the radio operators played in the tragedy: the messages that were (and were not) passed on, the response or lack of response from the captain, and the impact these actions had on where the Titanic ended up and how fast she was going when she got there. The story of the whole disaster is one of many tragic mistakes and misjudgements - one feels that at so many times that the catastrophe could have been diverted had only one or two decisions been made more wisely - but this part of the story is where the reader sees all too clearly how the impact of a dozen bad but fairly small choices one on top of another added up to tragedy. This was by far the tensest and best written part of the book.
Some of the throughlines could have been more clearly dilineated - for example, the change of crew is mentioned as having had a particular part to play in the sinking, but it wasn't clear to me exactly what was meant. I may catch it on subsequent re-readings, but I feel that, for a book which is intended as an easy-to-follow introduction, such things should be laid out a little more clearly!
I'd say that if you are fairly well-read up on the disaster, then you probably simply don't need to read this book. If you are looking for a (very) brief introduction, though, then you could do much worse, and the section between the first ice warnings and the actual impact is probably worth the purchase.