The Rift by Walter J. Williams
Once again we had a large turnout, as fourteen people showed up to discuss this book. Additionally, one group member related comments from his wife, who had also read the book but was unable to attend. The Rift is a near-future disaster novel in which the New Madrid fault near the Mississippi River abruptly yields an earthquake of magnitude 8.9 on the Richter scale. The action follows a truly huge cast of characters spread all over the earthquake zone as they struggle to survive the disaster. A unifying theme is provided by two characters (a Caucasian teenage boy and an African-American adult engineer) who travel down the Mississippi in a boat, eventually encountering most of the rest of the viewpoint characters. Along the way, Williams provides details comparing this fictional quake with the little-known historical quakes that hit the New Madrid fault in the early 1800s.
We liked the scope of this book. Williams explored many consequences of a modern quake along the Mississippi, including fires, famine, poison gas, plague, concentration camps, race riots, and nuclear accidents. We were impressed by the detail of the research. Several people felt that following a black man and a white boy down the Mississippi was a deliberate homage to Huckleberry Finn. The