#BookReview: A Storm Of Infinite Beauty by Julianne Maclean

Earth Shattering Quakes Both Real And Metaphorical. This is an intriguing dual timeline tale that takes us through deep family secrets… and the 1964 Anchorage Alaska earthquake – still, 60 yrs later, one of the strongest ever recorded (since 1930) – that may or may not have helped hide some of them. It is a strong tale of privacy, pain, the desire to live the life of one’s choosing… and of normal people with the potential to be superstar celebrities… and superstar celebrities who just want to be normal people. It is a story of thinking you know a particular family member as well as anyone possibly can… and suddenly finding a revelation that you never saw coming. It is a tale that will make you feel like you are actively in the coastal woods of Nova Scotia… and the wilds of coastal Alaska. It is a tale that brings you front and center to the chaos of being in the midst of one of the strongest earthquakes humanity has ever actively recorded… and a tale that brings you front and center to the chaos of finding out that those you thought you knew best, you hardly actually knew at all. It is truly an excellent tale, and it is truly superbly told. Very much recommended.

This review of A Storm of Infinite Beauty by Julianne Maclean was originally written on September 23, 2023.

#BookReview: Tides Of Fire by James Rollins

Sigma. Is. Back. With Kingdom Of Bones, it looked like Rollins was delving too far into the fantastical and leaving behind the more grounded roots of this series. Here… the ties are more to the scifi than the fantastical, including The Abyss, Pacific Rim, Earthcore by Scott Sigler, and even… Mass Effect 3??? Yes, there is one particular scene roughly 2/3 into this tale that while not *quite* word for word with a particular moment in Mass Effect 3, is damn close – and the sentiments and reasons are identical within their worlds. (To be fair, in this particular situation… the wording is always going to be very similar, no matter where you encounter it.)

But more than the scifi zeitgeist connections here, this tale truly gets back to the real roots that make Sigma Force so special. We’ve got the historic and the scientific, and again, the scientific is at least more closely based on actual science this time around. But we’ve also got the camaraderie among the team, including having most of the team (minus Painter, Lisa, and newer team member Jason) together the first time we see them and having a bit of a mini-adventure then as the overall tale begins to pick up. Then we’ve got the Sigma Split, with the team breaking up to go their own separate projects to try to uncover and stop whatever is happening. Each of their specialties get highlighted and tested to degrees not seen in recent Sigma books in a fair amount of time, even Gray’s “special brain”. More akin to David Wood’s Dane Maddock Adventures in this particular point, there are even several callouts to other characters from prior Sigma tales and how those characters are still impacting the world even through the events of this tale.

And that epilogue… It sets up the 2024 entry into this series to be one of the most explosive in quite some time, and you’re going to want *that* book in your hands the moment you finish this one.

Very much recommended.

This review of Tides of Fire by James Rollins was originally written on August 12, 2023.

#BookReview: Catastrophic Incentives by Jeff Schlegelmilch and Ellen Carlin

Thorough Examination Of The Field. This is a look at the history of disaster response (mostly in the US, and primarily over the last 50 some odd years) and the incentive structures of the various players in the field – and what those incentive structures lead to, for good and bad. It also has a few recommendations on how to move forward, as most books of this type do, though as with most all recommendations of most all books of this type, these very much come down to a Your Mileage May Vary situation. Though I do appreciate that the authors are realists and openly acknowledge that some would be easier to achieve than others, and some of the recommendations are about as close to “never going to happen” as anything ever truly gets. At 34% documentation, it is even on the high side of average in my experience – which is always a plus. Overall a solid and informative look at a lot of aspects of disaster response – and particularly disaster response coordination – that most even within the field probably aren’t fully aware of, and for this alone it is absolutely essential reading for anyone who may ever experience a disaster. Which is everyone, everywhere. Very much recommended.

This review of Catastrophic Incentives by Jeff Schlegelmilch and Ellen Carlin was originally written on May 26, 2023.

#BookReview: Unnatural Disasters by Gonzalo Lizarralde

Excellent Within Scope, Ignores Alternative Explanations. This one was a bit weird. About halfway into the narrative, I was thinking this was going to be a three star at best, because it was *so* hyper “woke” / “progressive”. But then I read the description – I had picked up the ARC on the strength of the title alone – and saw that most all of the problems I had with the book were *exactly what the description said the book would have*. Well, crap. Ok, *within that scope*, this book is a true 5* narrative. Maybe a touch light on the bibliography at just 17% or so of the overall length of the book (more normal range is 20-30% in my experience), but not too terrible there. But ultimately I had to ding a star because it *does* lean too much into the author’s own biases and refuses to consider – and at times even outright dismisses – alternative explanations such as risky geography and geology, among others, in many of the disasters it covers. Still, the book has a lot of solid points about the modern “green” / “sustainable” / “resilient” building movements, if solidly from the “woke” / “progressive” side. Enough that even if you are one that normally can’t stomach such tripe (I myself am largely among this camp), this text really does have enough good material that you need to wade through it to see the arguments from even that perspective. Recommended.

This review of Unnatural Disasters by Gonzalo Lizarralde was originally written on July 3, 2021.