Reviews for The Vortex: A True Story of Historys Deadliest Storm

by Scott Carney

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

How unscrupulous politicians exploited the effects of a catastrophic cyclone to commit genocide and nearly trigger a nuclear war. Carney is an investigative journalist and anthropologist who spent six years reporting from South Asia for Wired, Mother Jones, and other publications, and Miklian is a senior researcher at the Centre for Development and Environment, University of Oslo. The authors begin by documenting the 1970 Bhola cyclone, a staggeringly destructive storm that killed roughly 500,000 people in the densely populated coastal area of East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh). Then the authors turn to the complex aftermath, anatomizing the ruthless opportunism of West Pakistani politicians who sought to consolidate their power by exterminating ethnic rivals; the self-serving machinations of American and Soviet leaders whose interventions culminated in a nuclear standoff; the desperate efforts of Bengali resistance fighters to secure independence in the face of brutal oppression; and the often heroic attempts of aid workers to mitigate the catastrophic human toll. The authors effectively translate their exhaustive research into a compelling narrative, cleverly alternating chapters among the perspectives of a diverse range of protagonists, from Mohammed Hai, a humble young man who became a revolutionary, to international power brokers such as Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. This is a riveting, page-turning story of human devastation, political corruption, and individual bravery as well as a cautionary tale with universal relevance. “This book is about climate change,” they argue convincingly, showing how rising global temperatures will continue to boost both the frequency and intensity of cyclones in many coastal areas, prompting extreme political volatility and large-scale human suffering. To those who may feel complacent about what happened a half-century ago in a relatively obscure part of the world, Carney and Miklian deliver a stark warning: “Our global climate future means not just flooded beach houses in twenty years and more expensive groceries next decade but an increasing likelihood of selective genocide and even global international war.” A powerful, timely exploration of an environmental and political tragedy. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.