Jared Diamond, Author , read by Christopher Murney. Penguin Audio $34.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-14-305718-5

In the Pulitzer–Prize–winning Guns, Germs, and Steel , Diamond chronicled the rise of human civilizations since the Ice Age. This time, he turns over the log and probes the rotted side—the demise of once-productive societies such as the Maya, Easter Islanders and Greenland Norse. He also sounds the alarm on environmental practices undermining modern societies, including China, Russia, Australia and the United States. Narrator Murney has his work cut out for him, even though this audiobook is abridged. The narrative, which spans the globe and the ages, is dense, overwhelmingly so at times. Diamond parses myriad ecological, geographical and biological impacts, from weather patterns to deforestation to sperm count. But Murney rises to the occasion. His engagement never flags, and he strikes all the proper notes of concern and warning. The delivery feels effortless, his tone a blend of newsreel narrator and professor-at-the-lectern. Diamond teaches geography at UCLA, and his prose style, unsurprisingly, contains shades of the lecture hall. In fact, given such abundant and oft-alarming information, listeners may feel the urge to take notes for the final exam. Though grounding materials such as photographs and maps would have made this audiobook easier to follow, their absence is a minor fault in an overall fine production. Simultaneous release with the Viking hardcover (Forecasts, Nov. 15, 2004). (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 02/07/2005
Release date: 01/01/2005
Genre: Audio
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