Magnitude 8

Philip L. Fradkin, Author Henry Holt & Company $27.5 (480p) ISBN 978-0-8050-4696-0
The history of California and Californians is inextricably intertwined with earthquakes--as is made abundantly clear in Fradkin's new book (after The Seven States of California), an expansive seismological trek along the San Andreas Fault line. Fradkin covers California's quakes from early theories to state-of-the-art science, from the 1857 Fort Tejon quake to the 1994 Northridge quake. There is much hard science here, detailing everything from standard theories on quakes past and present to debates within the seismological community. Some of the most fascinating sections of the book deal not with geology or seismology, however, but with human reactions, both personal and civil, to the destructive potential of quakes. Fradkin reports that during the rebuilding of San Francisco following the 1906 quake, building codes were relaxed to hasten reconstruction of the city and references to the quake were deleted in subsequent writings, focusing instead on the ensuing fire. There is also excellent coverage of quakes as media events, including the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, which interrupted the World Series. Fradkin tackles his topic expertly and with a keen sense that earthquakes are social as well as geological events that have shaped not only the landscape of the state but also the attitudes of those who live there. Agent, Brandt & Brandt. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
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