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The Rift

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  1,034 ratings  ·  67 reviews
It starts with the dogs. They won't stop barking. . . . And then the earth shrugs--8.9 on the Richter scale in the world's biggest earthquake since 1755. It hits New Madrid, Missouri, a sleepy town on the Mississippi. Seismologists had predicted the disaster . . . but no one listened. Within minutes, there is nothing but chaos and ruin as America's heartland falls into the ...more
Paperback, 944 pages
Published April 1st 2000 by Eos (first published January 1st 1999)
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8.4 by Peter HernonThe Rift by Walter Jon WilliamsEarthquake in the Early Morning by Mary Pope OsbornePaperQuake by Kathryn ReissThe Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry
Best earthquake fiction
2nd out of 14 books — 7 voters
Pompeii by Robert HarrisKrakatoa by Simon WinchesterThe Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer-LyttonAshen Sky by Pliny the YoungerCongo by Michael Crichton
Earthquake, Volcano and Tsunami
23rd out of 57 books — 22 voters

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Community Reviews

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First published back in 1999, the predominately science fiction author Walter J. Williams released his epic disaster tale entitled ‘The Rift’.

The tale is centres around a handful of characters, namely the rebellious schoolboy Jason Adams and his newly acquainted travelling partner Nick Ruford. When a massive earthquake hits Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana, the landscape is left in ruins. Chaos ensues as the nation’s infrastructure collapses, leaving the surviving inhabitants refugees within
A cookie-cutter racist southern sheriff and a cookie-cutter charismatic preacher mar the book, getting too much screen time. With the earth itself falling apart, we really don't need bad guys, and cliched bad guys at that. I quickly began skipping over all their sections, as I already knew what would happen with them. A cookie-cutter President got more interesting when he wigs out in an unusual way. There's a small romance that feels utterly wrong--two kids meet, have no scenes of talk or emotio ...more
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
I was at the drug store and randomly saw this book tucked behind a bunch more in a pile by the register. It was marked down to a dollar and was very dusty. It was a thick chunky paperback and I figured what the heck. I was on my way to the doctors and I wasn't sticking my nose into any other book at the moment.

Wow! I really really liked this. Great drama. Written very well.
_The Rift_ is as bloated and turgid as one of the corpses that keep floating down the Mississippi River in Williams' overwritten riff on the disaster/apocalypse theme. Williams has pacing problems, plotting problems and, more than anything else, the problem of having done such a massive amount of research that he can't bear NOT to make you aware of all the hard work he went through.
Williams starts off with the timeworn disaster-novel device that's as familiar and comfy as your favorite bathrobe:
Really good read, exciting and full of very cool descriptions & scientific/historic details relating to the New Madrid quake of 1812.

In 1812 a massive, catastrophic quake hit New Madrid, MO - so powerful it rung churchbells as far away as Boston, MA. It was 1000 times more powerful than the quake that hit San Francisco in 1906. It rerouted several major rivers including the Mississippi, flooded out whole towns, turned swamp areas into hills and made hills into lakes. It even had the Mississi
S.A. Parham
From the book jacket: It starts with the dogs. They won't stop barking. And then the earth shrugs - 8.9 on the Richter scale. It's the world's biggest earthquake since Lisbon in 1755, and it doesn't hit California or Japan or Mexico, but New Madrid, Missouri, a sleepy town on the Mississippi River. I read the first 100 or so pages and felt like I was reading the script to a disaster made-for-TV miniseries. I finally gave up on getting any further.
It was interesting... for a while. Then it was a little tedious. Then it was boring. Then it was "just finish the book, yo!"

The little (pseudo?) historical notes from the 19th century earthquake were kind of cool. A few times. At the start of every one of a billion chapters? Skip.

All in all... ehhh.
This is a fictional story of a huge earthquake hitting along the New Madrid fault of the Mississippi River. I loved learning about the actual history of this fault, where there was a major quake in 1811. Also interesting to learn the history of the moundbuilding Indians of the area.
Sandra Dickens
At first, I thought I was reading the plot for another disaster movie. Too many characters, too many subplots. Then it all clicked. It became riveting and suspenseful. Although the book is very long (over 900 pages), once I got over the initial introduction of characters, I was hooked. A very good read.
Linda  Branham Greenwell
A great doomer book about an earthquake on the New Madrid Fault that destroys St. Louis and Memphis
Very good disaster book. All loose ends tied up quite nicely.
Jul 28, 2008 Chris rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: apocolyptic fiction fans
Recommended to Chris by: FOFC!
What happens with a few magnitude 8 earthquakes hit the heartland of American? This book will paint the picture for you, in gory detail.

Bottom line? The book is about 500 pages too long. I found the background story to be standard fair and not quite as boring as some have found it, but I was itching for the fun to begin. When it did, Williams did a great job telling the story. It was such a catastrophic event, and he described the events in detail. Frankly it was what i was looking for, and I w
Kristin Lundgren
This is the first book by this author I have read, and although it is what has been described as a doorstopper, the scoppe of what he wanted to accomplish needed a big book. I only wish it were longer or that there was a sequel. The lack of threads being tied up, and the rush to try and finish the story towards the end left me slightly dissatisfied. But the rest of the book was amazing in scope, and in depth. He chose a small central cast of characters, and how the successive quakes along the Ne ...more
Nov 06, 2007 Gertie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: apocalyptic fiction readers
I had to skip the beginning of this book... I just found myself uninterested in the beginning story set in the past, and impatiently moved on to the "real" story. No doubt the author wouldn't want his readers skipping that part, but I don't think it hurt my reading experience with the book, and in fact I think it improved it. I also skipped the other small sections/paragraphs between book sections, as they were also bits from the past that didn't affect the overall story. What can I say, I'm jus ...more
Michael Hall
The first third of this book is too long. The character introductions are slow, boring, and could have been done in half the pages. The final half of the book is worth the read, although it too suffers from unnecessary wordiness. Williams seemed to have crammed words in just to make this an 'epic' story. Once you do get into the action of the main story it's an exciting account of survival after a massive earthquakes rips through the midwest. Even some of the historical notes (fiction) that prec ...more
This is more a story of survival than a story of a large earth shaker and its disastrous ruin. The earthquake becomes a canvas that the author uses to paint the depravities that mankind visits upon his own once he is able to seat his own little fiefdom. Interesting historical backdrop for the story as well. It appears just like the big fault lines in California there are some major ones running through the south as well. These southern fault lines have caused very large disasters in the past muc ...more
Long but interesting story about catastrophic earthquakes that decimates the US South. The story follows a number of individuals and groups in Tennesse, Missisipi and nearby states as they cope with the calamity.

The author keeps the interest going with many twists and turns. The good guys come out more or less OK in the end and the bad guys get their just punishment.

An interesting summer read.
A bit heavy handed and a bit overlong, but The Rift is still a great disaster thriller with powerful social allegory akin to Stephen King's Under The Dome (the book, not the joke of a TV show). Despite its sweeping intended scale, this book zeroes in on particular microcosms of characters trapped in, well, little glass domes of their own, and invites us to watch them squirm to break out.
Started out like an old Michener book talking about the Mound Builder Indians along the Mississippi river and the destruction of their civilization by a huge earth quake along the Madras fault. It then shifts forward with letters and dispatches from the same area in the 1800s when there was another disastrous quake and present day chapters following an number of present day people in the same area, before bringing them all together when another series of quakes strike the same area and the destr ...more
I really enjoyed this book. The characters were well written, and the plot was fast paced enough to move you quickly through this lengthy novel. My only criticism of the book was the ending, it just trickled off. Very unfulfilling after such an excellent story. Would have been a 5 star read if the ending had been better!
Melody Hill
Actually, I didn't finish reading this one. Without a doubt, the worst book I have ever tried to read. The author seems to be confused as to whether he is writing fiction or scientific non-fiction. 4 chapters in, he starts a history of the earthquake-not in the context of the story-just a ramble. Awful, awful, awful. I can count on one hand the number of books I have not finished reading. This one just moved to the top of the list!
Read this years ago, but as I recall I really enjoyed it. I've even reread it before. Especially loved the setting in the South--not a place you think of as being decimated by an earthquake, but it's possible.
Burke Hodgson
No. Boring book with large cast of doofus characters. I abandoned this book before the catastrophe occurred. Maybe it gets better after the earthquake. Hopefully, 9/10 of the characters get squashed in the earthquake.
Good post-apocalyptic fiction involving the all too real possibility of a major earthquake striking the Mississippi. One reader reviewing the book on Amazon had commented that he had almost put the book down because the first couple of hundred pages were less than gripping, but then the book grabbed him. I had the same experience. The slow development suddenly gives way to a fast-paced adventure. The author should also be credited for devising a credible modern-day Huck Finn storyline and for pr ...more
mysterylady36 is right about there having been too much character development. Between pages 100 and 150 I seriously considered giving up on the book all together. And there was no reason for the sun king story at the beginning at all! But I'm stubborn and have a hard time not finishing a book so I stuck in. Things did get more interesting for sure. Soon I didn't want to put in down. It's weird though that so much of the book was stubborn survival and triumph of the human spirit in the face of u ...more
Polly Halicki
Well written with engaging characters.
It used to be that whenever I read disaster books I could tell if it had been written pre-9/11. Now the standard is pre-Katrina. It's obvious this book was written before the real U.S. government faced a catastrophe on the scale of the earthquake in this book. The governmental response in the book is so good, so competent, that it's actually a little distracting.

Governmental response aside, this was a fun, interesting book. It's a mamoth book, so it takes a commitment, but if you like disaster s
Brad T.
Good book but I read it years ago. It's very dated.
As another reviewer noted, the first part of the book is a bit of a slog but once calamity strikes, things pick up.
I thought the historical letter excerpts, anecdotes etc. that are injected throughout were unnecessary and didn't add to the story at all, in fact I found them dull and disjointed. I kept reading them thinking there would be a tie in to the current story (apart from the obvious quake and it's repercussions) but at 75% I got sick of them and started to skip them.
Epic earthquake novel written in 1999, reminiscent to me of a really good 1970's disaster movie (of which I am rather partial)
I took the advice of a Goodreads review & skimmed the first 150 pages, which went into unnecessary & slightly tedious detail building up character development before the mega quake hits- but when it does - the book really comes into it's own.
Ended up really enjoying it - would recommend to anyone who likes a good dramatic, action packed read.
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Walter Jon Williams has published twenty novels and short fiction collections. Most are science fiction or fantasy -Hardwired, Voice of the Whirlwind, Aristoi, Metropolitan, City on Fire to name just a few - a few are historical adventures, and the most recent, The Rift, is a disaster novel in which "I just basically pound a part of the planet down to bedrock." And that's just the opening chapters ...more
More about Walter Jon Williams...
Destiny's Way (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, #14) Hardwired (Hardwired, #1) Ylesia (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, #14.5) This Is Not a Game (Dagmar, #1) The Praxis (Dread Empire's Fall, #1)

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