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An excellent book!
Simon Winchester goes into great detail in the book, as he does in his other books. And, as the description indicates, this covers far more than the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
Winchester ensures that readers of this book understand the context in which the 1906 earthquake occurred by giving extraordinary detail on the history of earthquakes and our understanding of them, the history of San Francisco (up to 1906), and detailed look at the mechanics of the San Andreas Fault.
The Publisher's Summary above clearly shows this is more than just a look at one particular earthquake. The excerpt from Publishers Weekly also describes this as more than just about the 1906 earthquake. Based on those descriptions, and after listening to the book, I have to say that I got everything I expected... and more.
Simon Winchester is the narrator for his book and does an excellent job.
21 of 22 people found this review helpful
Having already listened to Winchester's Krakatoa, I was a bit disappointed to discover that the first half of this book covers much of the same ground, or rather background, in relating the history of geology and the development of the theory of plate tectonics. Indeed, the history given in A Crack at the Edge of the World is more extensive than in the earlier work. It is interesting stuff, especially if your interests in history include the history of science (and quite recent history at that), but I found myself thinking often during the first several hours, "When are we getting to the San Francisco Earthquake?" This feeling is caused in no small part by the fact that Winchester's introduction, telling the story of four "first person" experience of the first moments of the great quake, really whets the appetite.
When he finally gets to the quake and its aftermath, however, the story really begins to move. I've visited San Francisco a number of times, including twice in the last two years, but really had no clear idea of the extent of the earthquake, the damage it did, and the massive response of government and the private sector to rebuild the city. That last point is worthy of note, and this book (or at least the latter part of it) should be required reading for all the public officials, local, state, and federal, who botched the response to Hurricane Katrina.
I've rated the book only 3 stars (I'd give 3.5 if the system would let me), because I do believe the "history of geology" section is a bit too long and too technical at times. But the second half of the book is a solid five star effort.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful