A is for Armageddon by Richard Horne
|A is for Armageddon by Richard Horne|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A compendium of ways to worry about the end of the world, in glossy coffee-table gift book format. There might be other ways with which to cheer up your friends.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 272||Date: September 2009|
|Publisher: Square Peg|
The world is definitely going to hell in a handcart. We're only just preventing lethal global warming by having a credit crunch that has prevented a lot of big building, air travel, and consumerism. The population is getting so obese there is no room for any more of us - and add that to the exploding population statistics, and it's never going to look better. And don't get me started on where all the bees have gone...
This is a book that carries a similar sensibility. We get an entire periodic table of ways the world may end. Some are complete nonsense - the Mayan prediction for 2012 prime amongst those. And if I'm right about that, then the data all show 2050 to be a further barrier we may not exactly get past - it's when fossil fuels run out, ditto the important sea stocks keeping the entire food chain intact, and we'd also be saying goodbye to sea ice cover were it not for the fact the date of that loss has been brought forward.
Beyond that however, as this book's details suggest, it's far too late to start worrying about copious things. I would instead suggest not panicking, and that we should all sit back with a coffee and a good book.
I'm not sure I'd recommend this book however. There is a fair bit about it I love - the attention to detail in presentation, for one. The diversity in the creator's illustrations is brilliant, and he would be first choice for me to come up with a gently witty image for any magazine column I may want to write. It's just the words that partly get in the way.
The tone of the book was almost a complete mis-fire for me. I only found a few puns, of the painful variety, to get me to the back cover. Elsewhere it was flippant (for those who can't wait to hit the beach, if you hang around long enough the beach might come and hit you, starts the chapter on desertification), or more severe, but nothing was sustained. There were frustrating sparks too of what might have been - the section concerning World War Three as some imminent Hollywoodesque attraction to best the prequels. Globalisation is here, but I found this nowhere near as explanatory, educative or entertaining as it should have been.
Generally the format is a full page spread to every concern, with a page of text and a full illustration. Only sometimes, such as the welcome asteroid impact trivia, does our author divert from this. The main text is added to with data boxes for what we might do in case (head inland is the easiest advice to follow), how long we might have, and what the signs of that particular armageddon might be.
But with copious chapters we don't get very far as regards learning things. Yes, this is a mightily comprehensive document of doom, as there are several ways to sign off I wouldn't have expected, but a book that married the verve of the trivia and trivial, but connected everything together in a better way, would have been much more compelling. And what is with all those footnotes? Things should have been much more comfortably structured.
In the end the best consumer advice this book provides is contained within itself. We're on a downward slide and there's nothing to do about it. Buying this won't help. Yes, it's a memento mori of great artistic design (especially the copyright page - it was practically downhill from there though) and yes I learned some details of death, but I fear this has too little to say about our final days, and too little humour to divert us beforehand.
I must still thank the Square Peg people at Random House for the Bookbag's review copy.
If you're stuck on the fence about being happy with the present and glum about the future, you could consult The Optimist's/pessimist's Handbook by Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie for further details. And if you want to gen up on what our extinction will be wiping out, The Average Life of the Average Person by Tadg Farrington is one of the season's best witty trivia books.
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