The Great Quake

The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the PlanetThe Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet by Henry Fountain

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Alaska earthquake of 1964 was the largest seismic event to ever strike North America. It lasted for nearly five minutes and triggered a series of catastrophic tsunamis. I recall when it happened, and I even spoke to a person who experienced it. That is one reason why I wanted to read this book. The other reason is that I’m writing a book that begins with a big earthquake, and I wanted to do some fact checking. Mr. Fountain’s description of the earth movement and the tsunamis is marvelous. The truth in this case, is hyperbole. Towns vanish, ships and people disappear, the earth opens, and snaps shut repeatedly. Houses fall into great fissures. Those readers who are familiar with earthquakes should try to imagine one that lasts for five minutes and increases in intensity as it progresses.

I am disappointed to have to tell you that the actual description of the disaster is woefully brief. Most of this book is filler. We have the life story of the geologist who investigated the quake after the fact. We even got the life history of his father. We were subjected to the life story of one of the early proponents of the Continental Drift Theory. A few more biographies of some of the victims were thrown in to fill a couple more chapters. There is just too much uninteresting and unnecessary information. I suggest that you skim it or skip it. Go straight for the earthquake. That part is great.

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