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Retro Reading: 8.4 by Peter Hernon

Updated on September 2, 2020

Next to blizzards, earthquakes are my second favorite disaster.

Although I’ve experienced a few small tremors in my life, there’s something about them that‘s fascinating. They come and go without warning and once they’re done, it’s pretty much over.

While everyone is anticipating a big quake sometime soon on the west coast, did you know there’s an even bigger one anticipated in the region known as the New Madrid Fault and would effect nearly half a dozen states?

This is the story Peter Hernon sets out to tell.

As the story begins, John Atkins is lost in Benton, Kentucky. His friend, Walter Jacobs has asked him to investigate the behavior of local animals since he’s been receiving complaints from farmers.

Over on the west coast, Elizabeth Holleran is on a dig when she receives a call from her former professor. He tells her that he’s sent her a package and when she gets home, the package consists of a video tape.

On the tape he gives a stunning prediction that a major earthquake will hit the New Madrid Fault sometime on January 20 (give or take a few days).

Later that night, a devastating earthquake rocks the area and Dr. Holleran soon finds herself on a plane to Memphis.

With cities destroyed the residents have to rely on themselves as the area is continuously rocked by aftershocks (or are they foreshocks to an even bigger earthquake?) while the authorities and experts try to stop the shaking.

While the story is interesting and engrossing, the problem and albeit confusing, is each “chapter “ indicates the location, date and time, yet it jumps around from day to night. This is what had me confused and near the end, it’s still the same location, but different times.

Another problem is the book is loaded with facts, which is okay, but every so often the facts are repeated. This really bogs down the story.

Plus, the book is basically told in narrative with very little dialogue, but somehow the story moves at a fast pace.

Lastly, I didn’t really get to know the characters. There were quite a few to follow, but really only one “civilian” since most are doctors or politicians. I think it would have been much better if ordinary characters had also been introduced.

All in all, this is a good read and very informative as well.

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