LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION • A stunning account of a colossal wildfire that collided with a city, and a panoramic exploration of the rapidly changing relationship between fire and humankind from the award-winning, best-selling author of The Tiger and The Golden Spruce
“Grips like a philosophical thriller, warns like a beacon, and shocks to the core." —Robert Macfarlane, bestselling author of Underland
“Riveting, spellbinding, astounding on every page.” —David Wallace-Wells, #1 bestselling author of The Uninhabitable Earth
In May 2016, Fort McMurray, the hub of Canada’s oil industry and America’s biggest foreign supplier, was overrun by wildfire. The multi-billion-dollar disaster melted vehicles, turned entire neighborhoods into firebombs, and drove 88,000 people from their homes in a single afternoon. Through the lens of this apocalyptic conflagration—the wildfire equivalent of Hurricane Katrina—John Vaillant warns that this was not a unique event, but a shocking preview of what we must prepare for in a hotter, more flammable world.
Fire has been a partner in our evolution for hundreds of millennia, shaping culture, civilization, and, very likely, our brains. Fire has enabled us to cook our food, defend and heat our homes, and power the machines that drive our titanic economy. Yet this volatile energy source has always threatened to elude our control, and in our new age of intensifying climate change, we are seeing its destructive power unleashed in previously unimaginable ways.
With masterly prose and a cinematic eye, Vaillant takes us on a riveting journey through the intertwined histories of North America’s oil industry and the birth of climate science, to the unprecedented devastation wrought by modern forest fires, and into lives forever changed by these disasters. John Vaillant’s urgent work is a book for—and from—our new century of fire, which has only just begun.