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Broken River: Book 2 of The 7.9 Scenario Paperback – September 16, 2004
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About the Author
Author and Lecturer Sam Penny has published two novels in his The 7.9 Scenario series: Memphis 7.9 (Revised) and Broken River, and is finishing his next book: The Phoenix of Memphis. These techno-thrillers offer a blunt perspective of what will transpire when once again a 7.9 magnitude earthquake strikes the center of the United States, as seen from the point of view of characters who are there when it happens. The stories are based upon scientific analyses from the USGS and FEMA of what happens when a giant earthquake again occurs on the New Madrid Fault beneath the Mississippi River, within a few miles of a major metropolitan area. Penny retired in 1998 from a career as an engineering physicist, computer scientist, entrepreneur, and corporate executive. “My keen interest in geology evolved while designing computing systems for the oil drilling industry. During that time, I co-authored several trade and scientific articles with geologists on directional drilling and rock mechanics.” In 1989 he felt the shaking from the magnitude 7.1 Loma Prieta earthquake. “When I saw the fallen Cypress Freeway in Oakland, California, a mile from the original offices of the company I helped found in 1970, my interest in geology refocused on seismology and the effects of giant earthquakes. "Since I retired, writing has become my avocation as my wife and I travel full-time in our RV, following the best weather from place to place throughout the North American Continent, and researching the effects of natural disasters on our land."
Top customer reviews
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The author has done considerable research into both the science of earthquakes and studies which have been done by various researchers done specifically about the New Madrid Fault and possible outcomes of a major earthquake occurring somewhere along it. He has used this information to weave a what-if scenario for an initial quake of 7.9 magnitude in a disaster style of storytelling by following several groups of people along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers as the quake hits and the aftermath.
The story is accompanied by several maps to show the specific areas along the rivers and probable flooding and destruction of landmarks, dams, and levees for this type of event. I found the maps very helpful to visualize the areas being described in the story, especially since I am not familiar with details of the geography or small towns of the states along the rivers. It was obvious that a great deal of thought, calculations, and research had been put into each of the maps. Good job and invaluable for understanding the scope of the damages.
As for the narrative of the story, I found it hard to follow at times because of the constantly changing focus of the story from one area of the rivers and group of people to another with no indication by extra lines or a marker between each shift in focus. One minute I would be reading a conversation between characters on a tugboat in the middle of the river and then the next paragraph would suddenly have a different location and character trying to outrun a crumbling levee. The problem could be easily fixed by inserting additional line breaks or a graphic marker of some sort to better warn the reader that there is a shift about to occur.
Some of the characters are better defined than others, with some of the briefly occurring characters being no more than a few lines of dialog to describe the scene. At times these characters came across as a bit too well informed of the scientific side of an earthquake than most non-scientists would be, but I could see why the author used this method of imparting technical information rather than just going with straight narrative. Most of the effort in building characters was done for the tugboat captain and those around him since that was the scene for a lot of the action of the last half of the book, and that part worked well.
The book is worth reading for the heads-up of what could conceivably happen. As a well researched warning, it's first rate; as a disaster thriller, it's average.
Moderately recommended for most with the exception of those living near the New Madrid Fault who should be required to read it.
The Political part of the story where the State rights get in the way of Federal relief taking over rescuing the people over this multistate disaster area is very believable since it was written after the Katrina fiasco.
There is a follow on book called something like Reconstruction or Recovery that I will not be getting since this is my seventh disaster story I have read and the Memphis 7.9 ( Revised ) and this one together is the most believable and scariest to date.