Another Day, Another Blog

June 5, 2007

Five lessons I learned from Desmond Bagley novels

Filed under: books, the joy of life, when natures strikes back — iamza @ 12:08 pm

1) Landslide left me with the indelible impression that earth scientists live exciting lives, full of adventure. They spend most of their lives outside in an ever-changing laboratory. Duties include such ardous chores as camping in the wilderness for days at a time, and consuming large amounts of beer.

Downsides to pursuing a career as an earth scientist: occasionally, their work makes them extremely unpopular, and they get shot at.

2) Wyatt’s Hurricane made me long to be a meteorologist, if only because then I’d have an excuse to move to the Caribbean, or Far East. It’s not like we get many hurricanes here in England.

This book was my first introduction to the cloud seeding experiments of the sixties. It finished on a surprisingly optimistic note, with Wyatt eventually devising a means of controlling hurricanes. Sadly, weather modification in reality has turned out to be a much trickier proposition than this novel suggests. That, or possibly thanks to an over-abundance of caution and paperwork, we modern scientists lack the boundless optimism and enthusiasm of our sixties predecessors.  We dare not attempt experiments that could potentially put thousands of lives at risk without first going through every health and safety check ever devised. All things considered, this is probably a good thing — especially for anyone living in Florida and along the Gulf Coast.

Other lessons from this novel: never trust an Ernest Hemingway wannabe, or a revolutionary.

3) I was a first year geology student when I read Night of Error, and learned of manganese nodules on the seafloor. In the seventies, all sorts of folks were throwing away money in an attempt to find an economically feasible way to mine the nodules. By the nineties, they’d pretty much given up.

I figure in about fifty years, someone is going to take the set from James Cameron’s The Abyss, and make a submarine mobile manganese nodule mining platform. Possibly, they’ll even find a giant squid, or three. 

Also, Electrolux and Dyson will fight it out, each trying to outdo the other when it comes to developing giant environmentally friendly vaccuum cleaners for the seafloor. Think about it: Spring cleaning for the Earth! Get rid of all that pesky seabed sedimentary gunk, and free up the seafloor basalts for proper scientific study. 

4) Running Blind introduced me to the joys of intelligence work and geyser avoidance. Really, don’t all spies spend their days dodging geysers and bullets in Iceland? And, hey, when they’re on vacation, the spies could potentially get together, and make up a volunteer volcano watch/fire service.

5) The Snow Tiger remains my favourite of all of Bagley’s books. An investigation into a disastrous avalanche in New Zealand reveals that the avalanche may have been deliberately triggered. From this, I learned that if you want to live in a house in mountains where snow falls in winter, make sure the hillside above has not been deforested. Better yet, buy a house in the Caribbean instead. Also, never date a girl with over-protective brothers who (a) are bigger and/or meaner than yours, and (b) outnumber you.

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