With exercises, assignments, class activities, and reading lists at the end of each chapter, along with extensive references, A Gift of Fire is clearly intended for use as a textbook. It should be just as usable outside the classroom, however, at least for those who prefer a formal approach that eschews the sensational.
Much is omitted, understandably, but the breadth of coverage is still impressive and there is a good selection of examples. Baase doesn't shy from controversy, but manages to provide a balance between different views, often suggesting them as subjects for classroom activities. Key points are well brought out and explained, and the layout is clear and effective.
Changes from the first (1997) edition mostly involve updates and additions. There's a greatly extended section on computer models, for example, which looks at how climate models influence policy (in "reliability and risks"). The work is still US-focused, but less so than the first edition — the European Union and the Echelon monitoring system are covered, and the international complications of censorship brought out.
June 1997 [updated January 2004]