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"Geology is a science of great beauty," states Walter Alvarez (Univ. of California, Berkeley) in his introduction to this visually stunning work. Written by Allaby (author of four volumes in the "Biomes of the Weather" series) and noted geoscience academics and writers from around the world, this lavishly illustrated and easily accessible tome introduces readers to the mysterious and complex process that has shaped our world. In six sections-appropriately named "Birth," "Fire," "Land," "Air," "Water," and "Humans"-we are given a cinematic view covering everything from the earth's stellar origins to our role in its feared demise. While the text of the articles is lucid and informative, it's also quite sparse. The adage about the worth of a picture helps to keep this work to a single volume. Regular "Fact file" sidebars identify geographic superlatives and also include numerous graphs and charts as well as detailed views of events, processes, and even organisms. Several two-page sections provide a decidedly human perspective by focusing on topics such as theories of evolution, the historical use of precious metals and gems, and historical meteorology.