Boiling Point

by Karen Dionne

(very good; top 50% of SciThri)

Year published: 2010
Category: science thriller

Tech rating (out of 5):


The long-slumbering Chilean volcano Chaiten awakens. Sheila Kennedy, a scientist engaged in microbiology research on the mountain, has gone on a hunt for a convoy of tanker trucks she suspects are involved in illegal dumping, while her partner Ross Roundtree (who survived the Antarctic disaster in Dionne’s previous novel Melting Point) pokes around town for clues. Thus Sheila is on the caldera when it erupts. She is not alone. Dr. Max Heat, celebrity vulcanologist; Phillipe Dumas, a wheelchair-bound French Nobel-winning scientist with an interest in geoengineering; and Sheila’s research partner Ross, all enter the geologically unstable zone within hours of the eruption. Each has his own reasons for being there, and each will be forced to confront the awesome power unleashed beneath their feet.


If you like volcanoes, Boiling Point is the thriller for you. Filled with intense depictions of what it would be like to actually experience an eruption—from a distance, up close, in the air, on the ground—this novel will fuel your imagination without scorching your lungs. Various aspects of eruptions, including prediction and evacuation, comfortably fit into a plot which revolves around the central mystery of a convoy of trucks engaged in illegal dumping (who? why?), and the fight for survival on the mountain.

In this her second novel with ecological themes, author Karen Dionne again makes use of a spectacular, extreme setting to unroll a page-turning story of courage and foolhardiness, noble and ignoble intentions, and unexpected consequences. In my opinion, this second book is superior to her first (Freezing Point), with a straight-forward storyline, engaging characters, and a foundation of sound science which is gently offered to the reader. Boiling Point is a fast, pleasing read, an excellent choice for the proverbial beach, or to digest easily on a long flight.

Key words: Ring of Fire; global warming; copper mine; sulfuric acid; geoengineering; pyroclastic flow; lahar; ashfall; steam vent; tephra; obsidian

Special note to parents and teachers: This might be an excellent book to engage reluctant readers ages 12+, especially if they like science or volcanoes.

If you like volcano stories, you might also enjoy: Volcano Watch by Toni Dwiggins