I figured it was about time I read this thing. See, back when I was finishing up my Warlock undergrad here in Gotham & transferring the credits back to the Wasteland Academy, I took a class with a gentleman who cared a lot about Skraelings & dog-faced people in the Green Land. When the alchemical thesis came due, I took the suck-up route & wrote about, well, Eskimos & Vikings. The thing is, so did Jared Diamond. Or at least, he wrote a big chunk of collapse about the same topic I wrote my final paper on, & used the professor I'd studied with as his primary source. I feel cheated & I demand satisfaction on the field of honor! Well, not so much really, but I spun my faux indignation off & never bothered to read this...until now!
Mister Diamond seems...fairly naive about a great deal of basic things. The kind of things you'd expect a guy to talk about when approaching this subject. He goes on & on about how he's uniquely qualified to discuss human development. On how to talk about human development you need to be a real polymath! Part historian, part biologist, part environmentalist. Whew! Except, Jared? Anthropology. You are describing a widespread discipline, pal. & he sets up a lot of racist straw men. "You might think Europeans conquered North America because they are genetically superior, but I WILL TELL YOU OTHERWISE!" Okay, what? Yes, congratulations, you're catching up with the team. I know you are writing for the public, but really? You are going to blow people's minds? No.
The book had some great points. Talking about it with my tribe-mate Nino, he said that he read the introduction & then stopped-- he felt Jared Diamond had done a good job summarizing the book & didn't feel the need to go on through the 390 other pages. That isn't really unfair, actually. The abstract of the book pretty much gives you all you need. North-South axis landmasses like the Americas are essentially screwed by bands of varying climate, which East-West axis landmasses like Eurasia have nice routes to trade crops & technology along. True enough, good call.
Lots of the book is dedicated to explaining the sort of stuff my salon takes for granted. My brain-clutch & I take the rise of agriculture leading to surplus goods creating artisans & nobles as a given, or at least close to one. Diamond gives a pretty in-depth dig into some of it-- I'm not complaining. As a worldbuilder, I got two pages of notes out of this book, & I take some pretty condensed notes (nancy jay gave me four). There are some interesting critiques of Diamond's work-- there is no such thing as Eurasia (there is), or that he's Eurocentric (he isn't), or that he's an environmental determinist. Listen! He's writing a book about determining causes, of course it sounds deterministic! You guys need to listen when he says he's trying to explain things. No, the biggest flaws of this book are that it does drag on, he recapitulates his arguments at the drop of a hat, & he spends a lot of time debunking or explaining things that don't need to be either.