Dangerous World


Dangerous World (subtitled Natural Calamities, Manmade Catastrophes and the Future of Human Survival) was published in Canada by Viking Penguin in April 2008, and was issued by St Martin’s Press in the U.S., under the title The End, in November 2008. It is available in various other editions, including Croatian.

Well! Was this an overly portentous subtitle? It seemed merely descriptive, at the time. I conceived this book after I came across, in quite another context, a quote from a Princeton University scholar called Stephen Pacala: “All kinds of terrible things could happen, and the universe of terrible things is so large that some of them probably will.” So I was led to consider some of Pacala’s terrible things, and the list became long and alarming enough to more than justify this volume (everything from asteroid strikes to pandemics to floods to terrible storms to devastating earthquakes – oh, there was no shortage). From there I was led to ask, and attempt to answer, the question: Are we making things worse? Thus: Dangerous World and its alarming subtitle.

Of all the reviews that followed, I appreciated this notice from an unusual (to me) source, The Onion A.V., which pronounced thusly: “De Villiers finds a great deal to appreciate in the chaotic workings of the planet and the cosmos. His even tone and humor make what could’ve been the most depressing story ever told oddly inspiring, finding something like hope in life’s struggles to continue in the face of the worst of everything. It’d be a bit much to call the book inspirational, and De Villiers doesn’t underplay the calamities that lurk around every statistically improbable corner. Instead, The End is a satisfyingly clear-headed assessment of the state of things that neither talks down to its readers, nor wastes its time mongering fear.”

The Chicago Sun Times said this: “Marq De Villiers’ scary and exciting new book … is at its heart, a personal quest to find the social capital and workable plans to signal a clear way forward for us humans who are often blind to the fact that we are living in a frightfully dangerous time. No hectoring, just historical record and a clear narrative analysis that anyone without an ideological ax to grind will find beautifully presented.”

Or, “a humbling, invigorating analysis,” as Kirkus Reviews put it.