Tuesday, August 26, 2008

REVIEW: The World Without Us

I was reminded of one of the best books I read last year when I saw that The World Without Us has just been released in paperback. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend that you do so. Here's the review of the hardcover edition I wrote last year:

Title: The World Without Us
Author: Alan Weisman
Protagonist: the human race
Setting: the planet Earth
Speculative Fiction laced with tons of fascinating science
Rating: A+

First Line: One June morning in 2004, Ana María Santi sat against a post beneath a large palm-thatched canopy, frowning as she watched a gathering of her people in Mazáraka, their hamlet on the Río Conambu, an Ecuadoran tributary of the upper Amazon.

After reading one of his articles, a woman asked Alan Weisman what would happen if every single human being vanished from the face of the earth all at the same time. After much research, his answer became The World Without Us. While people in internet book groups I belong to were posting their annual Tops and Bottoms reads of 2007 before the year officially ended, I resisted. I knew I was in the midst of something very special. I was right. The World Without Us became one of my top three reads of the year.

Weisman takes us to various places around the globe in search of the answer to this question: New York City, which would quickly topple once humans were no longer around to operate the pumps that keep water out of the subway system; Chernobyl, where wildlife quickly returned after the meltdown; to sections of New England that have had two centuries to recover from farming; to the vast ancient underground cities of Turkey; the petrochemical plants of Texas; North America before any humans stepped foot on it; and to a place that I don't care to drive by--the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant outside of Phoenix, Arizona. In each place he stops, Weisman talks to the experts in an effort to find out what has happened, what will happen, and what will probably happen due to the actions (or non-action) of humans.

The journey is spellbinding, equal parts amazement, joy, sorrow and dread. Weisman has done what few authors can--make me change the way I think and the way I see this beautiful planet that we all share.

From his acknowledgements: "All of us humans have myriad other species to thank. Without them, we couldn't exist. It's that simple, and we can't afford to ignore them, any more than I can afford to neglect my precious wife--nor the sweet mother Earth that births and holds us all. Without us, Earth will abide and endure; without her, however, we could not even be."


  1. Thanks for the review. I've seen this book advertised and didn't know what to think about it.

  2. This sounds like a fascinating read. Thanks for the review.


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