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Alien Volcanoes – Rosaly M. C. Lopes & Michael W. Carroll ***

I really don’t know what to make of this mid-sized coffee table book. (In practice, that ‘coffee table’ label is a bit unfair – the book is that size and has glossy pages with plenty of colour illustrations, but on most pages there is more text than there are photos.)
The first chapter is on Earth’s prehistoric volcanoes, then a chapter on the different types of volcanoes before launching into the meat of the book – volcanoes on both Earth-like and gaseous worlds in the solar system, ending with a short and not particularly informative chapter on volcanoes in culture. The illustrations range from very clear photographs to good (sometimes indistinguishable) artists’ impressions, though some of the pictures – most of the ones of Iceland and a painting of Pompei, for instance – are strangely murky, more photo album snaps than glossy picture book illustrations.
Overall it just didn’t work for me. It doesn’t give the in-depth exploration of volcanoes that I think could be made fascinating, but instead spends too much effort on the alien volcanoes of the title, which inevitably are more removed from our experience, giving less emotional linkage. The illustrations aren’t good enough to make this an excellent picture book in its own right, but the way it’s written doesn’t captivate either.
Don’t be put off too much by this review – volcano fans will find a lot to interest them, but for me, it just lacked that spark of excitement.

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Review by Jo Reed

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