The criticism over this book seems both fair and even a little obvious at times. It ranges from “this book goes too far” to “this book doesn’t go to far enough!” The book purports to discuss why some societies fail and others succeed. Diamond mostly looks at the specific factors related to resources, weather, and other features geographically to determine some of the commonalities among societies experiencing certain levels of success. It’s fascinating in a lot of ways, but severely limited in others. For me, any discussion of success and failure of societies that both attempts to remove moral agency from the equation is going to make a lot of people uncomfortable. So on the one hand, it doesn’t demonize actions enough (if you feel like it should) but it also doesn’t credit any actions. It’s an oddly dry accounting.
It’s also interesting because it clearly positions itself away from what Diamond thinks are racist interpretations of history, especially tied to enlightenment notions of societies working in specific trajectories from savage to civilized, and especially where those theories are tied to race and merit. For me, it seems the value of the book is that it generates a lot of discussion and attention toward topics that need revising and while the book is both limited in its scope and depth, it reached a fairly large audience.