Review: Alternate Histories of the World by Matthew Buchholz

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This remarkable collection of maps, photographs, engravings and paintings from the early ages to modern day provides a stunning new look at the world as defined by our struggles and alliances with the monsters and supernatural creatures that have defined our existence. Learn how a mechanical man helped write America’s Declaration of Independence. Track the course of the Living Dead virus from Africa to Europe and on to the New World. View artifacts from our uneasy alliance with the Martian race, or simply delight in the vibrant colors and illustrations from a bygone age.

A fun, pretty book the incorporates zombies, Martians and Vilnar the Destroyer into our history. As an avid fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I was delighted to see a large number of references to many of the B movie monsters they dealt with on a weekly basis. The illustrations are lush and ridiculous and I feel like we all needed to be aware of the Great Robot Uprising.

4 out of 5

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Review: History’s Worst Disasters by Eric Chaline

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The world we live in is usually benign and forgiving, but on numerous occasions over the course of history it has also acted as a reminder of the precarious nature of our existence. Starting with the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction, author Eric Chaline takes you on a tour of humanity’s disasters, with triggers caused by nature as well as combined natural-human influences such as the HIV-AIDS pandemic and the Irish Famine, and even events dictated solely by human actions, such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill and 9/11. The scope of History’s Worst Disasters is to go beyond cataloging death and destruction in order to examine the consequences of these terrible events.

Perhaps I should have taken more into account in the second part of the title “and the stories behind them”. If you’re looking for a book that goes into details about the disasters themselves and describes in depth what happened, this isn’t your book. While thoughtfully focusing on a wealth of different disasters throughout history, the author more focuses on WHY the event happened rather than the event itself. As a useful tool to explaining the background of many major disasters through history this book is invaluable, especially in a school setting. Just be warned that if you’re looking for a lot of information about the disaster itself this might not be the best place to start.