Off the Shelf

“Mount Doomsday”

By Marcus Pan

Mount DoomsdayAnother title from High Country Publishers, I am receiving this book a few months before general release. Therefore I won’t gripe too much about missing pages in the intro or some text disappearances in the pages, as I’m sure they ‘re going to fix that in the final store edition.

Donald A. Berman, M.D., is a physician, pilot, lecturer and author who spent many years creating Mount Doomsday. The book is a fictional account of the eruption of Californian volcano Mount Lassen. While there’s been plenty of doomsday stories out with the coming of the new millennium (in the movies alone we can find Volcano, The Day After, Armageddon and more), Berman concentrates on the volcano itself and has done large amounts of research to make the novel as accurate and believable as possible. He’s succeeded quite well.

The twist in the story of Lassen peak’s eruption is the fact that the volcano seems to be radioactive. We never do find out where the radioactivity is coming from, only given hints and clues from a few possibilities and left to choose the one we like best, but it’s definitely man-made radioactive waste that has somehow infiltrated the mountain. The scrambling of the President’s office while news station WKSF-TV airs the story of radioactivity earlier doesn’t get too bogged down in politics, but depicts a bumbling, unprepared president similar to…well, the one we have now really…quite good.

Berman’s breaks into historical fiction as we are transported to the eruptions of Mt. St. Helens, Pelee, Krakatoa and others was very well looked into before putting it down on paper with accurate facts, statistics and times of cataclysmic eruptions throughout history. In some we join a member of the populace as he or she makes daily errands throughout historical cities and watch the effects of the eruption while in others Donald concentrates more on the statistical data about the eruption itself. All well written.

My biggest caveat about Mount Doomsday is the sudden ending – the huge explosion of Lassen peak itself, spewing its radioactive ash and pumice widely. I was looking forward to a fictional account of the possible fallout of such a radioactive explosion, but the story abruptly ends right there. Just boom…that’s it. No aftermath, no studies in possible contamination, no after effects the President’s office and others have to deal with. Much too abruptly ended and it really dropped the wind from my sails as the story raced on to the impending disaster.

I was quite surprised by this really, since the story opens up strongly from the beginning. Before the prelude itself is done a few thousand people are cooked by a nuclear plants meltdown in Russia. And before the 25th page of the novel (in its trade paperback form) a couple people were cooked in the boiling pond near Lassen’s summit in an attempt to enjoy a “hot spring.” So I was very unprepared after an opening as strong and active as this to find myself having no idea what happens post-eruption. What a cataclysmic let down.

Other than that, which admittedly is a bit of a big thing, Mount Doomsday is a great story that is easily read by anyone and in most cases more well researched than most Hollywood level flicks we’ve seen that deal with this type of subject matter. So good work to Donald…I just hope next time he gets around to finishing his stories.

“Mount Doomsday” by Donald A. Berman, M.D.
Copyright © 2004 by Donald A. Berman
Published by High Country Publishers, Ltd.
First Printing May, 2005
ISBN: 1-932158-57
Contact Information:
High Country Publishers, Ltd.
Post: 197 New Market Center, #135, Boone, NC, 28607, USA
Phone: (828) 964-0590
Fax: (828) 262-1973

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