A non fiction account of the biggest earthquake in North American recorded history — the 1964 Alaska earthquake that demolished the city of Valdez and swept away the island village of Chenega — and the geologist who hunted for clues to explain how and why it took place.
Avoiding portentousness, Fountain, a veteran New York Times science reporter, paints a deft portrait of life in these remote outposts ... Fountain isn’t a showy writer, but there’s a fever-dream quality to his account of those five minutes that 'made the earth ring like a bell' that captures the hallucinogenic oddness of a world off-kilter, out-of-joint, suddenly uncooperative ... Interleaving snapshots of a lost world, the primal power of nature and high science, The Great Quake is an outstanding work of nonfiction. It’s also a reminder that the original agent of creative destruction resides not in the corporate boardroom, ivory tower or artist’s salon but beneath our feet.
...[an] entertaining and enlightening book ... In contrast to the painstaking process by which science arrives at its certainties, an earthquake takes just a few minutes to reorder reality. Fountain sets the scene for an abrupt wake-up call, and his description of how it unfolds is gripping.
Both Fountain and Miles are journalists (Fountain has worked at The New York Times for two decades), and their books are chock-full of these kinds of tales, describing the human scale of such disasters ... The Great Quake is rich with such revelations; and I felt grateful, even giddy, as I read them. Fountain’s book is like a gift box: Open the lid to peek at the treasures of the Earth. I could geek out on such details for a month and never miss mentions of humanity ...neither book wallows in sensationalism or alarmism.