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Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 Hardcover – Mar 20 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (March 20 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066212855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066212852
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 771 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #396,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Though we think first of Java as an eponym for coffee (or, to some today, a computer language), it is in fact the trading of aromatic tropical spices on which the fortunes of the great island's colonizers and Western discoverers were first founded. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19 2004
Format: Hardcover
I loved Simon Winchester's book, the Professor and the Madman, but Krakatoa was very slow and, I must say, poorly written. There is a section in here in which Winchester goes on for 100 pages describing tectonic plates, and much of what he does is just summarizing. His conclusion, that Krakatoa led to the rise of Islam in the region, is based on tons of supposition: was Islam not on the rise when Krakatoa was destroyed? It appears that Mr. Winchester is now cranking them out to take advantage of his rising stardom, something that happens with too many writers. I read a story in the L.A. Times that he was doing a book on the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, and allocating three months to the effort. I find that a little absurd: I have read every major book written about the great earthquake, and there are two extraordinary books. One is Gladys Hanson's Denial of Disaster, and the other, which I just finished, is a new novel called 1906 by James Dallessando. Ms. Hanson's book reveals the huge coverup in the death toll from the quake. Mr. Dalessandro's 1906 novel paints an unbelievable portrait of the city and the events that followed, shows an incredible amount of research and still captures the human element. It's a fantastic novel. I'll be curious to see how Mr. Winchester's earthquake book stacks up: whether it will just more hype or a legitimate competitor to two marvelous books.
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By C. J. Thompson TOP 500 REVIEWER on Dec 17 2010
Format: Paperback
I can't say I have ever had more than a passing interest in the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, but I generally enjoy Simon Winchester's writing and this book did not disappoint. Surprisingly, the relatively brief section of the book that actually deals with the eruption itself is the least interesting part of the entire story. What makes the book so good is the scientific detail, chiefly geological, that Winchester presents to the reader. He discusses plate tectonics, general geological principles, and the underlying geology of the region in a lucid, and entertaining manner and manages to make some fairly technical stuff very accessible to the layman. My only real criticism with the book is that the maps were disappointingly inadequate. At the beginning of the book there are three maps of the relevant area in various scales and there are a few others scattered through the text. In the main, however, I often found it difficult to orient myself between maps, or to locate places that are discussed. In addition, although Winchesters descriptions of subduction zones and the like were fairly easy to follow, many of the accompanying diagrams were not that well done and sometimes only served to confuse things. On the whole, though, I really enjoyed this book and regard it as one of Winchester's best.
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By James Gallen TOP 100 REVIEWER on Nov. 7 2008
Format: Paperback
In "Krakatoa" author Simon Winchester examines the great explosion of August 27, 1883 from all angles, including historical, scientific, social, political and religious. He starts by explaining the social structure in the Dutch East Indies at the time. He then goes on to explain the scientific explanations for what happened and why. A fascinating portion is the story of the scientific studies which recorded the effects of the blast including water waves thousands of miles away and the air wave which circled the globe seven times during the first fifteen days. As the book progresses he impact the blast had on the natives and Europeans living in the area. He eventually suggests that the rise in Muslim devotion in the Dutch East Indies may have been the result of a fundamentalist turn to Allah after the catastrophe. The book ends by chronicling the volcanic activity and the island at the site of Krakatoa in the years since the explosion.

Krakatoa was the first major natural catastrophe to occur after the network of underground cables united the world. This made it a "World Event" which has fascinated readers ever since. I had long heard of Krakatoa and appreciate the opportunity to gain a better understanding it and its implications. It raised an interest in other scientific histories and the history of the Dutch East Indies. A book than can do that merits a recommendation.
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Format: Paperback
Krakatoa by Simon Winchester is a very informative, enlightening, and researched work. Rather than just being a recounting of the day Krakatoa exploded (which the title seems to imply), the damage it caused, etc., the book does much more. It recounts the historical significance of Indonesia (and the Dutch rule there), the importance of the Sunda Strait (where Krakatoa is located), the underlying reasons for massive volcanic explosions (plate tectonics and continental drift), and the social and religious aftermath due to Krakatoa.

I enjoyed the treatment of each of these issues, but at times some of the information seemed to be a stretch in relation to the subject at hand. The first half of the book, the build-up to the massive explosion if you will, was slower and not as engaging as the second half which was absolutely a joy to read and learn. Winchester does a great job of convincing the reader that Krakatoa was truly the first major event that the world of global communication (due to the telegraph and transatlantic communication lines) came to know. Winchester also does a good job explaining why the Krakatoa legacy has endured. Interestingly, much of it has to do with the unique name itself.
Krakatoa is a very good read. From an intellectual standpoint, the book is great, everything that you want to know about Krakatoa you'll find here. From the standpoint of enjoyable reading, the first half and some of Winchester's digressions are difficult to get through, but the second half is a great read. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the subject, or just history itself, but beware if you're looking for a book solely focused on the explosion/destruction of Krakatoa on August 27, 1883.
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