David Hawk is the writer who created The Race Through Space series, science-fiction novels full of science and adventure for young adults. You can find my reviews of The Race Through Space series here via this link.
This time though instead of strange alien worlds, David remains on Earth for his latest adventure, taking us on a trip to Yellowstone National Park in the novel Caldera. I would expect that for most, the plot would be obvious, but for anyone uncertain; the word Caldera refers to a bowl shaped volcanic crater, and in this particular case we follow a super eruption which occurs at the site of the Yellowstone caldera, and its deadly after-effects. The story follows a father and son who take a trip to the park, unaware of the dangerous threat lurking beneath their feet.
I couldn’t help rolling my eyes and shaking my head at the naiveté of the characters in this novel, who were surprised that earthquakes happen regularly at Yellowstone, and weren’t worried about portentous signs like stampeding animals, all the birds taking flight, uptick in earthquakes and aftershocks etc. I know it’s just a story, but these things just appear so obvious to me, like common sense that Yellowstone is a seismic area on top of a volcano, and these signs suggest getting the heck out of the area pronto. It’s the same with most disaster books/movies though, there wouldn’t be a story if everyone had the good sense to flee.
There are also some inaccuracies and liberties in the science. Such as the Jet Stream that appears to flow North West instead of East, and the pace of the lava flows. Since lava normally flows at a slow crawl, more like that seen in Hawaii as opposed to the speedy fashion portrayed in movies like Volcano and San Andreas, or Pompeii, unless it’s travelling downhill. But then, it’s not exactly thrilling to read a story in which most people can outwalk a lava flow, is it?
There’s no mention of the deadly sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere though, released by the eruption, which would poison the air, soil and drinking water of the entire planet, following the trajectory of the ash cloud. Similar to the effects of the Laki eruption in Iceland back in 1783-84. This would lead to the poisoning of most animals and plants, especially crops, livestock and even people. As well as contributing to the potential for a mini ice-age, this is one of the most deadly consequences of major large-scale eruptions.
While some of the early scenes with Colton, the main character, come across as having been written by a horny teenage boy, they did make me giggle. I’m not sure if this was the writer’s intention, but it does provide some light refreshing entertainment, in comparison to the seriousness of the main story. With this in mind though, Caldera is a book probably more suited to older teens and adults, with these repeated references to sex and masturbation.
Unfortunately, despite both the writer and his publishers attempting to reduce the number of spelling and grammar errors contained within David’s books, Caldera still appears to have quite a lot of issues. Including Lucas’s age, which seems to change from thirteen at the beginning, to twelve later on.
For the most part I enjoyed this novel, it kept me entertained and engaged just as a story should, however there were a number of situations that I’m not sure would be entirely true to life, such as walking across an area recently hit by a pyroclastic flow. The ending was a bit too rushed, cobbled together by mere chance and characters having hunches. So a bit of a mixed review and average rating of 3 out of 5 stars for David Hawk’s Caldera. It’s always difficult to please those who enjoy science, when you need to skew the facts a little to allow a story to make sense. I wanted to love this book, but felt a bit let down in a few areas.
I received a complimentary copy of this book directly from the author, David Hawk and voluntarily chose to write this honest review.