Here's the publisher's breathless descriptive copy:
Though a little overwrought, that's a pretty fair summary of Cline's narrative. The last 50 years have immensely deepened what scholars can tell us about Mediterranean, Near Eastern and Egyptian Bronze Age civilizations. Cline shares their picture knowledgeably and clearly. If this subject interests you I recommend this book.
And yet -- I came away from reading this book more than a little queasy about endorsing it as history. All historical descriptions are necessarily written out of the contemporary perceptual frame of the writer, however much they purport to objectivity or an Olympian view from nowhere. 1177 is very much a view from somewhere, full of direct pointing to contemporary events the author thinks are analogues to the upheavals of the Late Bronze Age such as the Arab Spring and desertification in unhappy Syria. In this respect, his history is a record of the anxieties of 2011 as much as of the catastrophes of 1177. In 20 years, I think it will read as an interesting period piece, a document of our fearful era, an era tantalized by terror of the zombie apocalypse, invading brown hordes, climate disaster and Orwellian totalitarianism.
Cline is also irritating when he insists that the civilizations whose end he chronicles -- Mycenaean, Minoan, Egyptian, Hittite, Canaanite, etc. -- represented a "globalized" culture. Yes -- people got around and these states created an integrated mercantile system. But hey -- weren't there an awful lot of people building their own civilizations in China, the Indus Valley and perhaps sub-Saharan Africa whose developments are erased by calling Cline's cluster "global"?
It was with this in mind that I read Masha Gessen's New York Times oped about the wrenching decision to stay or go that confronts Russians -- especially Western oriented, LGBT ones -- as Putin's society veers toward its more retrograde aspects. This is dealing with collapse on the micro -- human, personal -- level.
Gessen describes her own solution, a very good one for a lesbian parent, if available. In more general collapse, most individuals don't get personal solutions. But it is hard not to wonder.
I'm pretty certain that living with chronic anxiety is not good for us as individuals or a society. Very likely it will be those who can put anxiety away, at least for a season, who can find ways forward.