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Reviews of The Vortex by Scott Carney

The Vortex

A True Story of History's Deadliest Storm, an Unspeakable War, and Liberation

by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian

The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian X
The Vortex by Scott Carney , Jason Miklian
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2022, 528 pages

    Mar 2023, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Peggy Kurkowski
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About this Book

Book Summary

The deadliest storm in modern history ripped Pakistan in two and led the world to the brink of nuclear war when American and Soviet forces converged in the Bay of Bengal.

In November 1970, a storm set a collision course with the most densely populated coastline on Earth. Over the course of just a few hours, the Great Bhola Cyclone would kill 500,000 people and begin a chain reaction of turmoil, genocide, and war. The Vortex is the dramatic story of how that storm sparked a country to revolution.

Bhola made landfall during a fragile time, when Pakistan was on the brink of a historic election. The fallout ignited a conflagration of political intrigue, corruption, violence, idealism, and bravery that played out in the lives of tens of millions of Bangladeshis. Authors Scott Carney and Jason Miklian take us deep into the story of the cyclone and its aftermath, told through the eyes of the men and women who lived through it, including the infamous president of Pakistan, General Yahya Khan, and his close friend Richard Nixon; American expats Jon and Candy Rhode; soccer star-turned-soldier Hafiz Uddin Ahmad; and a young Bengali revolutionary, Mohammed Hai.

Thrillingly paced and written with incredible detail, The Vortex is not just a story about the painful birth of a new nation but also a universal tale of resilience and liberation in the face of climate emergency that affects every single person on the planet.


NOVEMBER 11, 1970
Twenty-four hours before landfall

White mist surged across the Mahajagmitra's bridge and the ship's aging frame creaked with each menacing gust. The man in charge, Captain Nesari, watched the pressure fall a bit more on his ship's barometer and paced the length of the control room. With its holds crammed to capacity with jute fiber and steel, the ship rocked ominously as it inched toward the open sea.

Nesari and his ship were leaving the great Hooghly River, the westernmost finger of India's Ganges delta and one of the world's most troublesome waterways. The Hooghly meets the Bay of Bengal at a point about thirty miles south of Calcutta, where incalculable volumes of silt wash down from the Himalayas and form a fan of ever-shifting rivers, tributaries, and temporary islands. A freighter that alights on a sandbar here might never break free.

As if to prove the point, the rusty hulls of abandoned vessels dotted the seascape. Colossal silt ...

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Scott Carney and Jason Miklian achieve a miracle of sorts in weaving three overarching stories into a convincing, satisfying whole, while expertly ratcheting up tension in scenes reminiscent of thriller novels. Mining more than 750 official documents and sources, as well as conducting more than 200 interviews, the authors reveal the appalling lengths Nixon, Kissinger and Khan went to ensure the "CHINESE CONNECTION" (as Khan named his negotiations with Mao) happened. The Vortex grips the reader at the same time it educates about cause-and-effect in both the natural world and human societies...continued

Full Review (1003 words)

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(Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski).

Media Reviews

Wall Street Journal
The authors describe in harrowing detail nature's assault on the island of Manpura...The authors tell [the story] with riveting panache.

Booklist (starred review)
Carney and Miklian reveal a long-concealed and profoundly shocking confluence of geopolitical crimes and crises...As Carney and Miklian so dramatically recount, a natural disaster instigated a civil war and epic atrocities, the birth of Bangladesh, and, in a nightmarish twist, very nearly ignited a nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia. With propulsive narrative drive and intense specificity, the authors circle among a cast of riveting real-life characters...Deeply involving and harrowing, this commanding work of reclaimed and clarified history is of urgent relevance.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The authors effectively translate their exhaustive research into a compelling narrative, cleverly alternating chapters among the perspectives of a diverse range of protagonists...A powerful, timely exploration of an environmental and political tragedy.

Library Journal (starred review)
In this absorbing chronicle, anthropologist Carney and human rights researcher Miklian cover the final months of unified Pakistan in 1970...An essential history of the infuriatingly tragic creation of Bangladesh amid a devastating storm, genocide, war, political intrigue, and hope.

Publishers Weekly
Shot through with colorful character sketches and lucid explanations of South Asian politics, this is an urgent warning about the links between global warming and geopolitical turmoil.

Author Blurb Gary J. Bass, author of The Blood Telegram
This is a rich tale of a terrible cyclone and the human folly that deepened the tragedy. Grippingly written, it is both a powerful history of the creation of modern Bangladesh and an urgent warning about our precarious common future on our rapidly heating planet.

Author Blurb Zia Haider Rahman, James Tait Black Memorial Prize–winning author of In the Light of What We Know
An utterly gripping story of international political intrigue, natural disaster, and the consequences for millions as refracted through the experiences of the ordinary, powerless people. The births of nations are rarely without drama and in the case of Bangladesh, though now an economic miracle, it began with all the tragedy that could befall one of the world's poorest countries. The Vortex provides timely instruction for the age of climate change in how politics and environmental pressures combine explosively.

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Beyond the Book

The 1970 Great Bhola Cyclone

Map tracking the Great Bhola Cyclone through the Bay of BengalIn The Vortex, Scott Carney and Jason Miklian explore the environmental and societal impacts the 1970 Great Bhola Cyclone had upon South Asia, specifically what was East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The tropical storm began brewing in the Bay of Bengal on November 8, 1970, gaining strength to eventually achieve winds of up to 140 mph when it smashed into the densely populated East Pakistan coastline November 12-13, 1970.

No stranger to cyclones, this area averaged around two per year between 1959-1969. But it had never experienced anything on the scale of the 1970 storm. Along with the ferocious winds, a maximum storm surge estimated at 35 feet high swamped low-lying coastal fishing villages, drowning hundreds of thousands of people and ...

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