Cover Image: Into the Inferno

Into the Inferno

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Member Reviews

Very interesting book. Lots and lots of information on wildfires, so I think you must be passionate about these phenomenons to fully appreciate this non fiction book. I did appreciate it, but I was sometimes lost in this constant flow of information. I'll finish by saying that I admire all the author did and witnessed. Thank you for the copy in exchange of a review
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This nonfiction memoir covers the growing crisis of wildfires in California due to climate change.  Palley documents his experiences with some of California's largest wildfires from his days as a rookie to his more recent fires before the Covid pandemic.  The stories are fascinating and the pictures included at the end of the book had me going to his Instagram to see even more of his beautifully terrifying photography.
I received an advance reader copy of this book. The views and opinions expressed in this review are completely my own and given voluntarily.
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Stuart Palley is a decent writer, and this nonfiction book works if you’re looking for dense information and facts about climate change and wildfires. I’m interested in both those subjects, but he wrote this like he was reporting things like, “I knew I’d be up late, so I drank a Red Bull.” This would have been a much more interesting read if it read like fiction that happened to all be true. I wanted to feel I was along with the narrator in those harrowing scenes up close to fires and trying to capture both the beauty and destruction of wildfires, like I was talking to actual firefighters and learning how to protect myself. He talks about getting fireboots that weren’t quite right—I wanted to feel the pain he felt and not just have it reported to me that he stumbled through such mistakes. He asks the reader at the beginning to imagine feeling like he felt, but a really good nonfiction writer would just make it easy to actually experience this with him. 

In terms of quality of information, 5 stars; in terms of how much I actually enjoyed reading this book that felt like homework, 3 stars.
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This book is one that all Californians should read. Our climate is changing drastically and now we have a “fire year” rather than a “fire season.” This can be a difficult (at times) book to read but the author has seen and documented many of our catastrophic fires and gives a firsthand look at how California’s fire landscape is changing. 

Stuart Palley is an incredibly skilled photographer, and you will recognize some of his iconic images of California wildfires, which are included at the back of the book. The dramatic images bring home the story of each fire with an emotional impact. These are our communities and our wildlands that are burning. For those of us who live in the wildland urban interface, which is quite a large swath of California, these images bring home the point that we are all at risk now. None of us will escape the effects of climate change. Drought and wildfire are the new normal for California. 

I have seen several large wildfires and been evacuated due to approaching fire, so I really felt these images and the stories behind them viscerally. If you’ve experienced wildfire in California, you know what I mean. Most of us pack up and run from fire, but Palley runs toward it with cameras ready. He brings stunning images from the fire lines to show the world the real and dramatic effects of climate change in the state of California. Many of his images are shot at night, creating surreal and dramatic views and lighting effects. I wish that there were more of his images in the book, but I also think that might be too much. The images are beautiful, but what they document is tragedy and terror. Even in something so destructive as wildfire, the photographer has managed to find the beautiful moments, the lighting that tells the story. He shows us the human side of fire too. The story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and their loss is a grim reminder of the dangers firefighters face when they go into these infernos. Honoring the lost firefighters is important and I was glad that Palley included this story in the book, so that we can remember them.

There are stories here from Paradise, Woolsey, and so many more. The book also shows how the author grew as a photographer, from beginning to photograph fires, to becoming a seasoned pro with firefighting training and equipment of his own. His story of personal growth is set to the background of the growing wildfire crisis in California after decades of drought has led to increased fire danger up and down the state. 

The writing style is eloquent and I loved the author’s way of bringing the story to life with visual language. You almost feel like you are there. It can be an emotional subject to read about, especially if you have experienced any of these large fires, but this book is worth the read. Five stars plus.
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In 'Into the Inferno', Palley writes a detailed and unflinching account of his experiences photographing wildfires in California. He doesn't shy away from describing the reasons behind the increasing occurrence of deadly wildfires, either.

I am hoping to hike the Pacific Crest Trail within the next few years, so I was keenly interested to read a narrative which would teach me more about how wildfires start, how they behave, and how to mitigate personal risk. Palley indeed provides this, although the reason I've given three stars and not more is that the book did come across as quite repetitive to me as the author jumps from fire to fire, and I was less interested in learning about how Palley set up his various shots (I'm not a photography aficionado). I was also disappointed at the lack of photographs. I know photographs increase the costs of publishing a book, but if you can't include them in a book by an actual photographer, in a book about photography, then when can you? I think the ebook version at least could have included them! 

(With thanks to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for this ebook in exchange for an honest review)
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