An Arthur Dent waiting to happen (beldar) wrote in trubookreviews,
An Arthur Dent waiting to happen

A non-fiction trio

I’m doing this review is a three-fer to show what I think is the evolution of the style of author Erik Larson.

I recently finished his 1999 book “Isaac’s Storm,” actually the audiobook, after reading his bestseller “Devil in the White City” (2003) and hearing the unabridged discs of his more recent book “Thunderstruck.” Larson writes non-fiction, with a narrative style that tells a story about notable historical figures trying to improve the world, alongside a story about a murderous historical villain.

“Isaac’s Storm”
In this book, Larson tells what is mostly one narrative, the story of the deadly 1900 Galveston hurricane, which killed thousands of people and practically destroyed the city. The storm is the “villain” here, and the man of progress is meteorological pioneer Isaac Cline.

The book casts Cline as neither hero (Cline’s claims to heroics in his own autobiography are suspect, according to Larson) nor fully to blame for the calamity, as there had been practically no warning given, and plenty of signs ignored or misinterpreted.

A thorough background is given for the hubris of the age and the political forces that caused the U.S. Weather Bureau to make its gravest error. Yet, fortunately, Larson’s storytelling style keeps the story, even in its driest parts, from coming off as dull. Constant descriptions of people and how they acted individually humanized the story. That factor, and with the context of a seaborne storm, bring about comparisons to Sebastian Junger’s “The Perfect Storm.” Whether that book had an influence is unclear since they both came out about the same time. While not as good as Junger’s book, “Isaac’s Storm” fares well in the comparison.

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