The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, which obliterated the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, was a disaster that resounds to this day. Now, paleontologist Charles Pellegrino, author of the New York Times bestseller Her Name, Titanic, presents a wealth of new knowledge about the doomed towns –– the people, their last moments, and the aftermath.
By employing the latest in forensic archaeology researchers have been able to piece together long–buried stories, including that of wealthy abolitionists (sometimes called Christians) who were supporting a slave girl named Justa against her former master; they have discovered evidence of a thriving middle class, which lived in houses with iron supports, concrete walls, sliding glass doors, and sanitary facilities; they have learned that these Roman citizens, whose medical technology included antibiotics, had a life expectancy not achieved again until the mid–1950s.
The lessons learned from modern scrutiny of that ancient eruption produce disturbing echoes in the present. For the strange physics of volcanic down blast and collapse column were at play in the 9–11 World Trade Center disaster. Dr. Pellegrino, who worked at Ground Zero in the attack's aftermath, shares his unique knowledge of these forces, drawing a direct link from past to present, and providing readers with a poignant glimpse into the last moments of our American Vesuvius."
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About the Author
Charles Pellegrino has been known to work simultaneously in entomology, forensic physics, paleo-genetics, preliminary design of advanced rocket systems, astrobiology, and marine archaeology. The author of eighteen books of fiction and nonfiction, including Unearthing Atlantis, Dust, Ghosts of the Titanic, and the New York Times bestseller Her Name, Titanic, he is the scientist whose dinosaur-cloning recipe inspired Michael Crichton's bestselling novel Jurassic Park. Dr. Pellegrino lives in New York City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I opened this book eagerly, expecting to love it. I ended up putting it down after reading about two-thirds, when Pellegrino went off on the tangent: what if the Roman Empire had traveled to the Americas? It could be interesting, but at that point, Pellegrino had gone down so many rabbit holes that I didn't think I could bear another. Unlike James Burkes's Connections, these don't lead to "Aha!" moments, just a wish that Pellegrino had a decent editor.There is a fine book in here, but I don't know if editing it free of the digressions would leave even half the present number of pages. I'd start out by removing the first 166 pages. While this would eliminate a great section on volcanoes and the origin of life, most of it is a digression, interrupted by further digressions. Pellegrino has a reverse history of the earth and the universe, which might be interesting if irrelevant, but it is diverted into so many tangents, that I would forget that I was reading the history. On top of this, the book is frequently repetitive. Pellegrino also has some serious errors of facts, like his insistence that the eastern Roman Empire fell in the sixth century, that make one wonder about the rest of the book.One critic, quoted on the dust jacket, said that reading Pellegrino was like having a conversation that might provoke but would never bore. I thought it was rather like listening to someone who doesn't have conversations, only rambling, self-congratulatory monologues.
I read this book as part of some ongoing research I am doing regarding the city of Pompeii. By trade Pellegrino is a trained paleo-geologist; in this book however, he ventures into physics, sociology, history and religious studies which combine to create something that is difficult to follow and causes the reader to wander off to read other more straight-forward texts . Yes, more than once I found myself more engrossed in my cereal box and trials of the Trix rabbit versus the correlation between volcanic ash and the 9/11 attacks.-I do not want to convey that this book is without merit but its density keeps it at ¿okay¿ instead of ¿good¿. There are two general themes of this book. The first is that explosions follow certain patterns and if scientists can understand these patterns then there can be strategies for reducing the effect of certain catastrophes. With this one Pellegrino does pretty well. There are plenty of fancy graphs, drawings and data tables regarding different explosions and how they compare to one another - including how the 9/11 attacks were only a small fraction of the destruction power of Mt. St. Helens or Pompeii. That fact alone is pretty remarkable to dwell on.-The second theme is an archaeological and geological review of Pompeii as a city. Again, Pellegrino does well and the ¿Cities in Amber¿ chapter is the most notable. However it is in this goal that the sub-title of the book: A New Look At the Last Days of Pompeii, How Towers Fall, and Other Strange Connections begins to fall into play. Apparently the phrase ¿other strange connections¿ give Pellegrino carte-blanc to write freely about early Christianity in Rome, Spartacus, the tomb of John the Baptist, Jesus and his relationship with Mary Magdalene, the Titanic, the historian Josephus and the Big Dipper. All of these other musings left me annoyed and confused.-Lastly, the remainder of the book is devoted to providing a detailed account of individuals who lived and died during the world trade center bombings. Pellegrino may have felt compelled to add a more human element to a very science-heavy book but it came off too poetic for non-fiction and left me slightly frustrated (I didn¿t plan to read a memorial text). By the end I felt like I was back in high school being forced to give up a nice summer day for some ¿required reading¿; only this time it was for my job and not sophomore English class.-Overall I could recommend sections of this book, but in general I¿d go with the Cliff¿s Notes version.¿¿¿¿Grade: C
I first heard of this book from a show on History Channel by the same name. It was interesting to read how a tragedy in modern times helped to explain volcanic tragedies from the past and how the information may be able to help save lives in the future.
When I first got this book, I had recently seen a TV show on the citizens of Pompeii and their demise when Vesuvius erupted. I figured this book was going to delve into more details about those horrific days. After I started reading the book though, it turned out to be MUCH more than that! The author brings us backwards in time to the beginning of the universe with some dry humor that makes you want to turn the pages faster. He covers many topics from astronomy, world history, US history and even jumps into theological issues, as well. I learned so much more about our planet and human kind as well as the last days of Pompeii and Herculaneum with this book. It's a terrific read for just about anyone because it touches on so many subjects!
Possibly one of the best books I have ever read, and I've been a serious reader for nearly half a century. 'Best' from the standpoint of being impressive in the breadth of the subject matter while being concise in under 500 pages, engrossing in the manner of maintaining a conversational relationship with the reader on a journey through time, tragedy, and aftermath, and challenging in the examination of faith and belief on the part of characters, author and reader. Highly recommended for those with a passion for history, religion, and philosophy, and afficionados of fiction and nonfiction alike.