Survival narrative meets scientific, natural, and social history in the riveting story of a volcanic disaster. For months in early 1980, scientists, journalists, and ordinary people listened anxiously to rumblings in the longquiescent volcano Mount St. Helens. Still, when a massive explosion took the top off the mountain, no one was prepared. Fifty-seven people died, including newlywed logger John Killian (for years afterward, his father searched for him in the ash), scientist Dave Johnston, and celebrated local curmudgeon Harry Truman. The lives of many others were forever changed. Steve Olson interweaves history, science, and vivid personal stories of the volcano's victims and survivors to portray the disaster as a multifaceted turning point. Powerful economic, political, and historical forces influenced who died when the volcano erupted, and their deaths marked the end of an era in the Pacific Northwest. The eruption of Mount St. Helens transformed volcanic science, the study of environmental resilience, and our perceptions of how to survive on an increasingly dangerous planet.
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"Jonathan Yen lends a lively spirit to this account of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. His jauntiness contrasts with the dark violence of the volcano, but perhaps it is a suitable tribute to the 57 people who were killed while doing what they loved: studying geology, taking photos, hiking, and camping. As Yen narrates the extensive history of the Weyerhaeuser company and its role on the mountain, his occasionally cynical tone reflects the author's antibusiness perspective. Yen voices quotations from a half-dozen American presidents with mostly passable inflections and a couple of misses. Both Yen and the author truly shine in bringing to life the remarkable stories of those who witnessed the eruption at close range, some of whom survived to tell the tale. N.M.C. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine"
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