Did you ever wonder what happened to the people on Easter Island? Why the Maya populations died out? Or maybe what happened to the Vikings on Greenland? What caused all these big and small population to die out? Collapse and the author Diamond explores what happened and what caused these population to collapse.
This is a fascinating read for anyone interested in extinct cultures such as the one on Easter Island and others. Diamond explore several, both small and big populations from different times in human history to find why they are gone and what similarities there were between them. Diamond means there are five reasons, but the most central cause is about the environment. Changes in it, to be more specific, but both natural causes and human exploitation of the environment. Other reasons are size of the population, and friendly and unfriendly neighbors. Diamond explains the culture of the different population, traditions, way of life, and much, much more. It's not just a list stating what caused their downfall, but an exploration of the entire culture.
As said, fascinating and a great read for anyone interested. At the same time, the book itself has many shortcomings. Diamond has a way of stating the same thing over and over again. For example, he can explain scientific methods - like determining a tree's age based on its rings - several times in different chapters. It might be necessary to explain the first time, but the second and third is redundant. In the same manner, Diamond is easily sidetracked, it seems, when trying to make a point. He might start an argument and give proof of this, but then he's telling something else (for a reason unknown to the reader) before heading back to his original argument, which, at that point, the reader might have lost sight of what the original argument (and point) was in the beginning. This of course makes the book rich on details, but it's hard to get an overall picture while sorting through all the details that might or might not have been necessary to get the point across.
The second biggest issue is that in the end Diamond offers a list of reading for the interested, but no reference for his sources. For a big book like this, it must've been manysources. And while there's an index in the end, it doesn't make up for lack of the sources used. It lowers the credibility of the entire book.
To sum up: A detail exploration of extinct societies which at times turns a bit too detailed.