Kenneth Brown opens his book like so many desert writers before him, with a rapturous description of an unnamed canyon in Canyonlands, running through the colors of the rainbow and his repertoire of synonyms for "dry" and "rocky." Ho hum. But the book improves considerably from there, exploring the geology, biology, and history of the area in enough detail to be interesting but not so much as to be daunting. He divides the area into quarters, explores the geology and life forms of specific locales at each of the four points of the compass and then returns to the center, managing within this structure to unfold a chronological account of the area's human history as well.

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