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The Rift (2000)

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3.5 of 5 Votes: 4
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0061057940 (ISBN13: 9780061057946)

The Rift (2000) - Plot & Excerpts

_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: he introduces you to the six or eight different groups of characters that he's going to follow through the novel. You know who the bad guys are; you know who the good guys are. You know, going in, who's likely to survive the coming catastrophes and who isn't, but there’s nothing wrong with that. You don't read these kinds of novels for their great originality. Rather, you read them to see how well the writer spins a tale you know by heart.In a novel of this size, however, that creates a massive, two-fold flaw. First, there are WAY too many subplots and WAY too many people running around in these 944 pages, yet Williams manages to write so few "round" characters that the conflicts, their motivations, or (especially) their resolutions are cardboard and predictable. But the fact that there are too many characters with a similar absence of depth is symptomatic of the poor choices Williams makes. When he does provide character detail, he often seems to do so at random. (**SEMISPOILERS**: What difference does it make, for example, that Arlette occasionally breaks into French or that she was hoping to spend the summer in Paris? What does the utterly useless and expendable character of Charlie, the” trading whiz” and soulless capitalist, add to the plot? After front-loading an extreme amount of detail about this character, Williams literally abandons him to an “I-can’t-be-bothered-with-him-anymore” conclusion. **END SEMISPOILERS**)More damaging, from a plotting point of view, is the mundane fact that, each time there is a new earthquake (and there are LOTS of them), Williams retells the same event over and over: Here's how it affected Group A; now Group B; okay, and here's the way they felt it in Group C; over in Group D, meanwhile....It's massively boring.No less stultifying is Williams' insistence on quoting thousands of words from letters and newspaper accounts (real or invented, I don't know, but you won't care enough to find out) dating to an actual swarm of devastating earthquakes in the area in 1811. He intersperses these extracts, some of them rather long, at the beginning of chapters and elsewhere in the text. Here’s why it doesn’t work: (a) they all say EXACTLY the same thing in practically the same words and (b) the quotes are placed apparently at random, and do nothing to illuminate the action of the novel at that point.I’m sure it was a challenge scouring the thesaurus for words that mean: tremble, shake, destroy, and fall down, but after the thirtieth time you read that a house was reduced to a “pile of broken timbers” or that the earth “rose up and smacked” someone in the ribs or that a boat “danced” on the river, you’ll want to reduce _The Rift_ to a pile of broken timbers. We get the picture, Walter. Really, we do. And yet the earthquakes keep coming, for no particular reason, and Williams keeps describing them as though we hadn’t already read the previous 200 or 400 or 650 or 812 pages.In fact, Williams’ starts the book off with a great section, set in 700 AD or thereabouts, about the destruction-by-earthquake of the civilization that created the so-called “Indian mounds” in the area. But once that scene has played itself out, Williams doesn’t have a lot of room to maneuver: the earthquakes 1100 years later or 170 years after that do the same damage and they do it in the same way: they just do it to bigger and more dangerous structures. Or, let’s put it another way: Williams wants the earthquake to be a major character in this novel, but the fact is that it’s the least interesting character of all because its features can never vary. The PEOPLE are what would make the story interesting, and there Williams falters.Finally, there’s little satisfaction in Williams’ ham-handed effort to say something meaningful about race relations or about the American south (which is, here, cartoonish and two-dimensional) or about survivalists, religious fundamentalists, and assorted crackpots. (The “rift,” get it?) He’d have done better to leave aside the clumsy moralizing and cultural commentary. It’s a genre novel, Walter, not _War and Peace._

In the early nineteenth century, there were several major earthquakes along the New Madrid fault, which runs under the Mississippi River. It had happened before, and is certain to happen again; in this novel, which was published originally in the 1990's, it does. The book appeared on a list of postapocalyptic fiction that I saw somewhere, but it doesn't really fit that genre, in my opinion. It's more of a disaster story: major earthquakes keep happening in the Midwest! The earth opens up! Lightning and thunder! Cities crumble! People die! All scientifically possible; it could happen at any moment.When the author explains the science behind the events, it's absorbing. Otherwise, not so much. Each section appears with a supposedly contemporary description of the New Madrid quakes and aftershocks of 1812, which I started skipping after a while; they don't add anything to the story, and only serve to interrupt the flow.There are too many characters, and the narrative skips around from one group to another for way too long before finally having the first quake happen. There's a teenage white boy, Jason, who floats down the Mississippi with an older black man, Nick - anybody else get Huck Finn from this? I didn't see it in any of the other reviews, but to me, it was obviously a ripoff. The President of the United States seemed to have been added solely so that he could be sitting in a church when an earthquake hit that set off the church bells in Washington, DC - just like the quakes in 1812! Ho hum. I have no idea why Charlie, the Cockney wheeler and dealer, was even in the story. He adds nothing, and his scenes are just boring.There's a nuclear power plant that is affected by the earthquakes. This is a very real possibility, and I'm sure that's why it was added to the story. There's another section that deals with survivors who were in the Gateway Arch when the original quake happens. That was interesting. There are two major lunatic refugee camps that arise after the quakes. One is run by a fundamentalist preacher who has been preparing for the End Times for years. The other is put together by Ku Klux Klan members. At first, I thought the religion-based camp was going to work. Several different faiths come together to rescue survivors and give them shelter and food. Unfortunately, the preacher expects all of them to convert to his way of thinking. The racist camp is scary, and I would hope that such a thing is impossible in these times, but I really don't know. I had to skip over some of these sections because they were just too unsettling for me. Too many idiots with guns.I fought through to the end of the book, but it was heavy going. There is a good story in there, but it's hard to find among the excessive details and extraneous characters. It wasn't well constructed or well written, and I wouldn't recommend it.

What do You think about The Rift (2000)?

this is another book that is in between a 3 & a 4. It is very well-written and it is very long. The one thing about a long book is that you can really get into the characters, there is plenty of time to develop them. I don't know how likely the huge and repeated earthquakes are to happen along the Mississippi River, although there are many references and quotes from a series of earthquakes in 1811-1812 which anchors the plot. But the evil that can come from people at such a disruption is very believable. I'm going through a period of reading about earthquakes and this is a good start. It might have been good to delete one of the characters, my vote would be for it to be the stock market trader who didn't really add much to the story.

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 much like the California fault lines. So once again it becomes not a matter of "if", as much as a matter of "when". The government and the response to the disaster is seen through some heavily shaded rose colored glasses and almost becomes a bit to saccharine at times. I went with four stars because I liked the tales of survival of some of the characters and have to give the author credit for work well done on a large scale.

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 their own land.Littered with detailed and beautifully involved subplots, each one telling their own individual stories; the storyline marches on at a breathtaking pace. With a carefully laid out plot, Williams draws the individual character’s stories together, delivering a natural yet seamless tale.Nuclear Power Stations are hit hard by the earthquakes, resulting in a far more deadly turn of events. The Mississippi pours across the landscape flooding the areas with the critically damaged levee system.Aftershocks pound the now thoroughly devastated landscape on frequent occasions, sending the survivors into repeated states of panic. Where some take to rescuing their fellow man from within the rubble, others see a new and deeply disturbing opportunity from the ensuing pandemonium.A fanatical preacher who has spent years obsessing over the supposedly foretold apocalypse, sets up a massive camp for his newly acquired followers. With the days going by and sheer survival becoming more and more difficult, so the preacher’s sanity deteriorates until there is nothing left but a madman and his cult.On the other side of the tale, a newly appointed sheriff who is also an active member of the KKK, begins an unsympathetic program of genocide, killing off men, women and children with his unrelenting extreme prejudice.With each twist and turn in the tale, and when you think it’s safe to re-build, the world shakes you off your feet once again. Surviving the earthquake is pure luck, surviving the after-effects it soon appears is the real challenge.With a deliberate play on words for the novel’s title ‘The Rift’, Williams spends a large proportion of his epic novel taking on the challenging and important issues of racial prejudices, whilst incorporating the theoretical idea that the New Madrid quake was the result of a failed rifting of North America. Multiple layers of elaborately constructed storyline produce a powerful novel delivering a novel where ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ meets ‘Ambush In Waco’...with earthquakes!Williams tackles the issues of race and religion head-on, delivering a powerful message throughout. Williams incorporates actual historical elements into the novel, with clear parallels drawn to the likes of Huey Pierce Long (The Kingfish) as well as important true to life events such as the inspirational uprising in 1943 at the Sobibor concentration camp and the haunting events of the Jonestown Massacre in 1978.The characterization of each individual, no matter how involved their part is in the developing tale, is truly exceptional. The reader can build up a gradual yet deeply set love for a whole host of the characters, whilst a slow burning rage builds deep within towards the fascist and corrupt characters that become so focal to the storyline.The tale, although somewhat epic in length, remains fast paced and gripping throughout. Williams takes a while to get the tale in full swing, carefully detailing the characters individual lives before the inevitable earthquake rips their world apart.The novel wraps up neatly, with a successful and truly satisfying ending. Williams avoids a clichéd over emotional conclusion, instead playing for a blunt yet altogether fitting grand finale.‘The Rift’ is nothing short of a gripping and truly powerful novel, packed with action and tension, whilst dealing with difficult social aspects and the cruelty capable of our fellow man. Running at a total of 932 pages, Williams crams in as much as he can into this incredible and heart-wrenching tale.

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