Humans persist in building centres of civilisation in places of past disasters as we believe that our technology will protect us next time. Yet we rarely win these battles with the earth because we don't understand natural disasters deeply enough. Susan Kieffer's book explains how the dynamics - the workings - of disasters are connected by a small number of natural laws. She goes on to show how the most obvious process in a disaster is not always the one that causes the devastation. For instance, the transformation of apparently solid ground into a substance like quicksand during the 2010 Haiti earthquake is what caused the destruction of Port au Prince. Kieffer argues that only by understanding the dynamics of natural disasters can we begin to institute engineering and policy practices to minimise their impact on our lives.