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Tectonics of the Himalaya

sfyjkThis book arises out of the 29th Himalayan-Karakoram-Tibet workshop held in Lucca, Italy in September 2014. It contains 13 papers that range from geophysics through structural geology to aspects of metamorphic and magmatic petrology and then to geochronology.  All the papers are scientifically strong. I enjoyed reading them and learned much. There are many colour illustrations including maps, cross sections, field photographs, micrographs and data plots.  As with any GSL Special Publication the production is excellent. 

Having said that, I have two philosophical issues with this volume. Before addressing these I must register an interest as co-editor of two previous GSL Special Publication on the Himalaya: Himalayan Tectonics (vol 74, 1993) and Tectonics of the Nanga Parbat Syntaxis and the Western Himalaya (SP #170, 2000). The former contained some 45 papers and covered the full range of orogenic processes. I am pleased to see that five of the 13 papers included in the new book reference at least one paper from volume 74, which more than 20 years on cannot be bad.

My first issue is that the title of the book is misleading. It is merely a collection of papers from a small conference, none of which directly deal with the 'Tectonics of the Himalaya'. The Introductory chapter fails to draw them together into a connected narrative. The result is that this volume contains a set of loosely linked papers which could have been published individually elsewhere, maybe to greater effect.

The second issue relates to the cottage industry that the annual Himalayan-Karakoram-Tibet workshop has now become.  The first one was held in Leicester in 1985. At that time Himalaya geology was new, unexplored and exciting. It might still be the latter, but with time it has become more detailed and location specific. Thomas Kuhn would argue that Himalayan geologists are moving into a period of 'ordinary science' so, other than inspiring young geologists from Himalayan countries, why do we still run these meetings in expensive locations such as the UK, USA, Japan etc.?

Sadly, due to the lack of context, I do not find this book to add greatly to our understanding of the Himalayan orogen despite the obvious quality of the individual papers. There may be a message here to future editors of GSL Special Publications because, even as a Himalayan geologist, I see no imperative to buy this book, other than the title, and would find it difficult to put a 'buy' flag on it.

Reviewed by Peter Treolar

TECTONICS OF THE HIMALAYA. Editors: S MUKHERJEE, R CAROSI, P A VAN DER BEEK, B K MUKHERJEE AND D M ROBINSON  Geological Society of London Special Publication, #412.  323pp (hbk)  ISBN: 978-1-86239-703-3