THE MYTH OF SOLID GROUND: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith

David L. Ulin, Author
David L. Ulin, Author . Viking $24.95 (290p) ISBN 978-0-670-03323-2
Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Paperback - 290 pages - 978-0-14-303525-1
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Ulin's quest for the truth about earthquakes is partly a personal journey in which he seeks to overcome post-traumatic stress and partly an introduction to the field of seismology, the study of earthquakes and seismic waves. It's also an exploration of the Californian spirit and landscape, on which subjects Ulin eagerly philosophizes. Writing in an intense, nervy style, Ulin describes being haunted by his experience of the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles. Understandably fascinated by seismology and its dreams of predicting quakes, Ulin embarks on interviews with leading researchers—and speculators—in the field. Yet he quickly discovers this science to be, like its subject, all about unstable theoretical terrain: "the whole field operates out of some constantly shifting middle ground between research and folklore, legend and fact." Ulin entertainingly describes each scientist and "sensitive" (a layperson who believes he or she can predict earthquakes) he meets, focusing on the enigma of earthquakes and the ways in which they test faith and reason. Ulin's brilliant prose recalls Charlie Kaufman dialogue, as he takes his audience on a wild drive across a beautiful yet doomed state, his mind buzzing with apprehension, with geological facts and with meditations on the themes of time, certainty and faith. Agent, Bonnie Nadell. (On sale July 26)

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