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Fire and Ice: The Volcanoes of the Solar System

15 August 2023

Fire and Ice begins by asking a seemingly simple question: what is a volcano? The author takes us deep into Earth and across the planets and moons of our Solar System to show us the beautifully complex answer to this question. 

The book covers the basics of volcanology and petrology in a logical order, without reading like an introductory geology textbook. There are ample references to historic eruptions and notable landscapes on Earth, with related or contrasting examples from different planetary bodies woven in smoothly. Most of the chapters are grouped by theme, such as planetary structure and heat generation, rather than going through the planets and moons in order; this structure makes for a more engaging read. In fact, the chapters that cover the moons and planets in order (chapters 9-11) are slightly dry. 

A strong theme of the book is geology’s inextricable links to biology, chemistry, and physics, through references to astrobiology, geochemistry, and geophysics. This makes the topics covered more accessible to scientists from different backgrounds and will only help to improve public perceptions of geology as an important and relevant subject to study. 

Being a popular science book, exact citations to journal articles are not given, which can be frustrating if you’re coming at this book from an academic perspective. A short list of further reading or the occasional mention of specific studies would have been helpful, as would a few more diagrams or photographs. 

I strongly recommend Fire and Ice to geologists from all disciplines who want to gain an understanding of comparative planetology, the branch of planetary science that compares processes, such as volcanism and tectonic activity, between different planetary bodies. Across the chapters, the book effectively shows how different planets undergo similar processes but, due to variations in size, temperature, and composition, express these processes in different ways. By showing us alternate versions of what a silicate body can be like, Fire and Ice effectively demonstrates the importance of comparative planetology for understanding why Earth is the way it is. Thanks to the clear writing style, engaging structure, and inspiring subject matter, Fire and Ice effectively expresses why volcanology and planetary science are such fascinating topics. 

Reviewed by Marissa Lo 



BY: Natalie Starkey (2023). Bloomsbury Sigma. 320 pp. (pbk)

ISBN: 9781472960405 

PRICE: £12.99 www.bloomsbury.com