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Publisher's Summary

Can a single explosion change the course of history? An eruption at the end of the 18th century led to years of climate change while igniting famine, disease, and even perhaps revolution. 

Laki is Iceland's largest volcano - and its most fearsome. Its eruption in 1783 is one of history's great untold natural disasters. Spewing out sun-blocking ash and then a poisonous fog for eight long months, the effects of the eruption lingered across the world for years. It caused the deaths of people as far away as the Nile and created catastrophic conditions throughout Europe.

Island on Fire is the story not only of a single eruption but the people whose lives it changed, the dawn of modern volcanology, as well as the history - and potential - of other super-volcanoes like Laki around the world. And perhaps most pertinently, in the wake of the eruption of another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, which closed European air space in 2010, acclaimed science writers Witze and Kanipe look at what might transpire should Laki erupt again in our lifetime.

©2019 Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe (P)2019 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about Island on Fire

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting and Pertinent Topic!

Alexandra Witze and Jeff Kanipe highlight the historical affects of Iceland's Laki volcanic eruption of 1783 and how it significantly influenced the field of volcanology. They do a good job of describing the science of volcanoes and what we understand about eruption events while walking us through what many people experienced because of Laki in 1783-1784. This is a good book to read about volcanoes from the vantage point of an under-discussed eruption from the land of ice and fire.

The book then shifts to incorporate our understanding of Iceland's 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. Because the Laki eruption was larger in magnitude and severity than the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of living memory, they make a good argument for how much more devastating a modern Laki-level eruption would be by comparing the two incidents. The air travel groundings and supply chain disruptions definitely rang true because of what we're going through with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some sections weren't the best, however, which is why I only give this book 4/5 stars. They seem to jump around from topic to topic, which may be because this book has two authors. Better editing to stitch topics together and write better transition passages could have remedied these hiccups.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading about volcanoes, volcanology, science, geology, science history, Iceland, and Icelandic history. It's my dream to visit Iceland someday, but I hadn't read much of its history other than "The Sagas of Icelanders" by Ornolfur Thorsson, so I'm glad I picked this up.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Good, but I wasn’t blown away

If you were into this kind of thing, a pretty specific volcano, it does a pretty good job of explaining the historic impact of Iceland’s volcanoes. I’ve definitely read more riveting books, but I’ve definitely quit way more. I guess it says some thing that I finished an obscure nonfiction book about a volcano in Iceland. No regrets here but it probably won’t be a second listen.

1 person found this helpful

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Full of facts interestedly told

A very enjoyable book. Well read. It revealed volcano information new to me and beyond lava flow and pyroclastic gas. The stories of the aftermath of large volcanic action were horrific and heartbreaking. Really a great book.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting and engrossing Volcano info centered on Iceland

This was very interesting info on several historic volcanic eruptions / the way they developed and unfolded (esp Iceland’s Laki) and the horrific effects on people, livestock and landscapes often thousands of miles away from the actual volcanoes.

Ramifications for the impact of a future mega volcano on today’s more densely populated and international transport dependent is astounding and frightening!

Interesting in the Covid pandemic era was the author’s discussion about the run in N95 masks and panic buying that would occur should the world know about an impending mega eruption. Similar to what we experienced in 2020. Very prescient!