The Rift

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Reviews of The Rift (1 review)

5 - Excellent Review


Walter Jon Williams is known mainly as a science-fiction writer, but there are no fancy gadgets or little green spacemen in The Rift. When the synopsis says it's a "near-future what-if scenario," they mean near-future as in, it could happen tomorrow, or at least the day after it was published (being from 1999, some of the technology is even a little outdated). In any case, there is a definite Stephen King quality to The Rift, in that it focuses on how people deal with an unthinkable catastrophe. Some characters live in denial, some work together to survive, and some immediately begin using the situation to wield power and control over those around them. Our cast of characters include a moody teenager just moved to Missouri from California with his wacky New Age mother; the nation's first elected Klansman sheriff; an out-of-work weapons engineer; and a nutcase End Times preacher. (Guess which two set up their own private kingdoms in the wake of the earthquake ...) Some characters are a bit stereotypical (the investment banker whose only thought is getting to the office so he can make money off the disaster, the sheriff's wife obsessed with the local matriarch and her decaying antebellum estate), and the portrayal of southerners as Bible-banging crackers is sure to rankle some. But other characters are wonderfully complex, chief among them, surprisingly, the Kluxer sheriff, who, at least at first, is one of the more likable characters. (Well, you'd have to read it ...) The writing is a little clumsy at times, Williams repeating certain phrases as if he forgot he'd just used them a page ago, and the character of General Frazetta is introduced with two awkward paragraphs without a gender-specific pronoun, in a transparent attempt to shock us with the fact that it's a female. There's a bit of philosophizing (the President's final monologue) that some may not agree with. But overall, I couldn't put this book down, and it's long enough to keep you engrossed for quite a while. I had to go all the way and give it five stars. Definitely food for thought, with all the natural disasters that have happened around the world in the past few years.