Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Palmyra Impact, by Boyd Morrison (Retitled Rogue Wave)

What is it about disaster stories? The summer wildfires, tornado season, these hold our attention, certainly, but it's the biggies that really fascinate--Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi flood a while back. Boyd Morrison's Palmyra Impact is the classic disaster story, in tsunami form.

Part of what is so interesting about disasters is that it (unfortunately) is the chance for ordinary people to do something extraordinary. Sully was just doing his job when he landed in the Hudson, but it was so much more than that. In the book, Kai Tanaka works in the tsunami warning system, but when his family is in danger, he certainly does more than just issue news briefs.

Morrison has done the research on the science, and it shows. Part of the tension of the story is the fact that although unlikely, it COULD happen this way. And Morrison points out that people will not always do the right thing, and that can have disastrous consequences.

Morrison's writing has settled down since "Adamas Blueprint"; he unspools his yarn with more confidence. I did miss the "Nick and Nora Charles" vibe of Adamas, but this is a different animal, anyway. The downside is that I felt I could see the chess pieces moving a little bit. Cell phones have a tendency to run out of battery life or get destroyed. I also got to the point of wondering how much more our merry band was going to have to take. But Morrison does have finesse; he shows how much the exertion and stress costs these folks. You can't run fast through a debris field when you're exhausted. Morrison acknowledges this.

The Palmyra Impact is a ripping read and a fascinating answer to that "what if?" question.

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