Steven Heighton's new book, On Earth As It Is, is bigger and much more spread out than his last one (Flight Paths of the Emperor) and more ambitious. His writing is strongest when he writes at a distance; especially fine are his excursions into the past, in the Arctic, the Mediterranean and Vimy Ridge. His more domestic narratives, based perhaps in his own biography, I found less compelling, although that may be merely the effect of reading them alongside the really strong stuff. The strong stuff is truly transportational: it takes you to another place. One tiny cavil: a nautical knot is not a unit of distance. The editors (at Porcupine's Quill) should have picked that one up.