Synopses & Reviews
Simon Winchester, New York Times
bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman
, examines the legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa, which was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly forty thousand people. The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogotá and Washington, D.C., went haywire. Bodies were washed up in Zanzibar. The sound of the island's destruction was heard in Australia and India and on islands thousands of miles away. Most significant of all -- in view of today's new political climate -- the eruption helped to trigger in Java a wave of murderous anti-Western militancy among fundamentalist Muslims, one of the first outbreaks of Islamic-inspired killings anywhere. Krakatoa
gives us an entirely new perspective on this fascinating and iconic event.
This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
"[T]his eloquent British writer submits a fascinating account....All readers, science-prone or not, will be delighted by this experience-expanding book." Booklist (Starred Review)
"[E]rudite, fascinating....[Winchester's] investigations have produced a work that is relevant to scholars and intriguing to others, who will relish it footnotes and all." Publishers Weekly
"Krakatoa is volcanic." Time Magazine
"Building thriller-like suspense, Winchester gives voice to firsthand accounts....If you've ever sat through a dry geology lecture, Winchester's human-oriented volcanology will grip you." USA Today
"[T]hrilling, comprehensive, literate, meticulously researched and scientifically accurate; it is one of the best books ever written about the history and significance of a natural disaster." The New York Times
"A vivid reconstruction....Supremely well told: a fine exception to the dull run of most geological writing." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
Now in paperback comes the New York Times bestseller on the catastrophic eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 1883, and its lasting and world-changing effects. 57 line drawings. 18 halftones & maps.
About the Author
Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, Atlantic, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa. In 2006, Mr. Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. He lives in western Massachusetts.
Reading Group Guide
1. Discuss some of the many legends associated with the name Krakatoa (Carcata, Krakatau, Cacatoua). What does the name signify today?
2. Describe the cosmopolitan climate of the 17th century Dutch colony Batavia. How did that mood change in the 19th century, when Old Batavia was abandoned by Europeans who fled to Buitenzorg, the uptown suburb?
3. What important roles did Philip Sclater and Alfred Russel Wallace play in Darwin's theory of the origin of species and survival of the fittest? In the case of Wallace, did you feel that his role in history has been unduly neglected?
4. How did Alfred Wegener's theories about continental drift anticipate plate tectonic theory? How did the author's experiences in Greenland in 1965s further scientific understanding of these theories?
5. Discuss Krakatoa's eruptions prior to the catastrophic eruption in 1883. Did this historical background give you a more complete sense of Krakatoa as a living volcano? How do you think they compared in scope to the 1883 event?
6. Describe the beginnings of the 1883 eruption. What warnings did people in the region have that a major volcanic event was going to occur? How did the advent of transatlantic cables and telegraphs make this an international catastrophe?
7. Were you surprised by the duration of the 1883 Krakatoa event, from the earliest vibrations to the full eruption, some eight weeks later? What struck you about the many contemporary descriptions of this occurrence? How did some of the Javanese and Sumatrans make sense of this event?
8. Simon Winchester writes: "The death throes of Krakatoa lasted for exactly twenty hours and fifty-six minutes." What occurred during those hours? What part did the ocean play in the catastrophic destruction?
9. How did Krakatoa manage to transform the evening skies? How did the event alter the science of weather forecasting? The global climate?
10. How were tensions between Dutch colonists and the Muslim Javanese and Sumatran community exacerbated in the wake of the Krakatoa eruption?