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Richter 10

Richter 10

by Arthur C. Clarke, Mike McQuay

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From the New York Times bestselling author of Rama Revealed comes a thrilling new collaborative novel of the race to avert a massive earthquake: the apocalyptic "big one" that threatens to send California sliding off into the Pacific Ocean.

Arthur C.  Clarke is the greatest living writer of science fiction, the mind that


From the New York Times bestselling author of Rama Revealed comes a thrilling new collaborative novel of the race to avert a massive earthquake: the apocalyptic "big one" that threatens to send California sliding off into the Pacific Ocean.

Arthur C.  Clarke is the greatest living writer of science fiction, the mind that produced a string of blockbuster New York Times bestsellers:
2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequels, as well as Rama II, The Garden of Rama and Rama Rescaled.  Now, he turns his remarkable imaginative powers to a near-future novel of the struggle to avoid catastrophe in the form of a colossal earthquake more destructive than any in human history.  Written with Mike McQuay, this is a thrilling novel of man's will to survive against unstoppable forces of nature.

Lewis Crane lived through the devastating Los Angeles earthquake of 1994.  He survived, but his family didn't--and at ten years old, his life was ripped apart.

At the age of thirty-five, Lewis has devoted himself to the study of the most powerful force on Earth: earthquakes.  He is the foremost expert in the field of seismology; and when he predicts a gigantic quake, everyone prepares for disaster.  But to his relief and dismay, the quake never occurs, and suddenly Crane is the subject of ridicule from scientists around the world.  Then he discovers a mistake in his calculations, and realizes that the "Big One" is just around the corner.  The clock is ticking as he attempts to convince the world that this time, catastrophe is certain.

Richter 10 is vintage Arthur C.  Clarke--a fast-paced novel of ideas and near-future imagination, realized by McQuay's talent for characterization and ingenious plotting--and is the major science fiction event of the season.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Two formidable SF talents converge splendidly in this disaster thriller, which offers sleek action-adventure writing, world-class tumult and a coherent near-future based on sound yet innovative social and scientific speculation. Thirty years ago, as a child, Lewis Crane was scarred physically and mentally by the Los Angeles earthquake of 1994. Now he spends his days tracking earthquakes to minimize their damage. He also harbors a secret hope that he can, through a daring plan to fuse the earth's plates by exploding nuclear devices along their fault lines, stop the earthquake menace forever. Lewis is aided and stymied in these actions-and in his attempts to warn of the monster quake implied in the book's title-by a gallery of realistic characters and well-developed political factions, including the suppressed but still potent Nation of Islam, a powerful women's bloc and the Chinese business interests that now really run America. The plot permutations are as rich as the premise and settings, involving maturing characters, shifting allegiances, betrayals, open conflict and hidden agendas. Clarke's trademark technological mysticism and McQuay's tight plotting (as evidenced in his SF detective novels) make for a moving, convincing and engrossing yarn. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Sf guru Clarke (The Hammer of God, LJ 5/15/93) teams up with McQuay (State of Siege, Bantam, 1994) in this novel about a young seismologist in California who pinpoints the location and date of The Big One.
Carl Hays
Clarke's latest novel, a collaboration with the late Mike McQuay, capitalizes on the growing demand for grand-scale sf disaster novels. Lewis Crane is a brilliant seismologist whose obsession with perfecting a method of accurately predicting earthquakes is driven by the loss of his family in the disastrous L.A. earthquake of 1994. While currying favor with preeminent politicians to get funding for his quake-prediction foundation and for his scheme to eventually eliminate quakes altogether by fusing the earth's tectonic plates, Crane forecasts a major shakedown for the Mississippi Valley that doesn't happen as scheduled. Now branded a charlatan, and realizing he made a key mistake in his previous calculations, Crane must reconvince a skeptical public that, in mere months, his prognostication will yet prove true and that the quake that verifies it will be of uniquely devastating magnitude. Clarke and McQuay provide a fascinating peek into the science of seismic geology as well as plenty of rumbles in the action department. A taut, well-written thriller that should satisfy both Clarke's fans and the many devotees of disaster novels.
Kirkus Reviews
Collaboration between the veteran Clarke (The Hammer of God, 1993, etc.) and the late McQuay (Puppetmaster, 1991, etc.) about near-future earthquakes, politics, and environmental disaster. By the 2030s, the Nation of Islam (NOI) is orchestrating a civil war in California (and demanding an independent state of its own); China is the dominant world power; and the global ecology nears collapse because the ozone layer has vanished, while southern Europe and the Middle East have been wiped out by Israel's nuclear self-immolation. Lewis Crane survived the Los Angeles earthquake of 1994 but lost his parents—and now he's the foremost authority on earth tremors. His obsession is to be able to predict earthquakes precisely; on an altogether nuttier plane, he dreams of preventing earthquakes by welding the Earth's crustal plates together with nuclear bombs! Armed with the computer simulation he needs to complete his research, Crane predicts a giant earthquake in Middle America and accepts the backing of Li Cheun, the Chinese businessman who runs the US. But Li betrays Crane for political gain, while the earthquake fails to materialize on time (though it does happen). Later, the NOI attacks Crane's mountain headquarters, killing his wife. So Crane turns his attentions elsewhere, buying real estate on the Moon and starting a colony secure from Earth's imminent breakdown.

Long-windedly un-Clarke-like but engagingly peopled, and, while improbable, never dull.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.15(d)

Read an Excerpt

Now, a look inside Richter 10...


Fingertips tingling and toes numb, pajamas damp with sweat, Lcwis Crane came wide awake.   Evcry one of his worst night terrors was real! And at that horrible moment he knew he'd been right all along and the grownups had been wrong: The Wild Things did live in the back of his closet; a dragon did sneak in when the sun went down to curl up under his bed.   The monsters were invisible in the dusty moonlight seeping through the slats of the blinds, but Lewis knew they were there.   They roared hideously and stomped around the room, making his bed wiggle like a trampoline he was using to climb onto.   He screwed his eyes closed and clamped his hands over his ears.   But the monsters didn't go away.   They got wilder and made even louder noises.

Suddenly pitched out of bed, Lewis screamed for his parents.

His voice was so little and the noise was so big that his Mama and Daddy would never hear him.   He had to get to them.   Heart pounding, he tried to make himself stand up, but fear kept him rooted to the floor as it started to buck beneath him and the walls began to undulate like the enormous pythons he'd seen at the big zoo in San Diego.   His bookcases were quivering, the chairs trembling, and the video games stacked on top of his computer came tumbling down.   Something whirred over his shoulder--the picture that had hung above the little table next to his bed--and landed beside his knee, glass popping out of its frame and spraying his leg.

"Mama," he cried.   "Mama, Daddy, help me!"

Everything shook.   Everything.   Books and Tonka trucks fleu off the shelves; his Power Rangers and Ninja Turtle action figures danced as if alive on their way to the rug; matchbox cars and crayons sailed through the air.  The mirror over his dresser and the aquarium next to his desk smashed onto bare parts of the floor, glass and water showering him from clear across the room.

"Daddy," he wailed again just as his chest of drawers crashed to within an inch of where he sat.   He jumped up then, but the floor heaved and he Jost his balance, banging down hard on his knees.

And he plunged into the end of the world.

His body shook violently, his whole room shook violently, and he heard the most awfull noise he'd ever heard in all his seven years.   It sounded like the ground for miles around was cracking open and his house was splitting apart and maybe even the sky was getting torn into pieces.   Tears ran down his face. He began to crawl to the doorway, cockeyed and funny-looking as if a giant had twisted it sideways.   He thought he heard his mother call his name, but he couldn't be sure.   He was sobbing now.   He wanted her, wanted his father, too.   He had to get to them.

The hallway was full of dangerous stuff, and he stopped for a second.   There were chunks of plaster and metal rods all mixed up with jagged spikes of wood and ugly shards of glass from the furniture and pictures that used to be so neatly strung along the walls.   The pile uas higher than his knees and he uas scared that he was going to hurt himself crawling through it, but the house was rolling around so much that he didn't dare try to get up and run.   He took a deep breath and started to crawl as fast as he could, his arms and hands getting bashed and cut, his thighs and feet feeling stung and torn.

He reached the dining room, and a sob caught in his throat.   He could hear his parents.   Mama was calling his name--but Daddy was screaming in pain.   There uas a lot more light out here, but he didn't like it because it uas bluish and kind of winking over everything in a spooky way.   He shivered, then turned, put his hands flat on the wall, pushed his legs out, and climbed palm over palm until he was on his feet.   The whole room was rolling around, making Lewis suddenly remember the deep-sea fishing boat he'd been on last summer.   It had dipped way down and way up, swung side to side, and, if he hadn't been on Daddy's lap, and if Daddy hadn't been strapped into the big chair bolted to the deck, they and the chair and everything else would have gone sliding from rail to rail.   Could the house be riding a humongous wave? Silly.   Their house couldn't get blown all the way from Northridge out to sea.   But that other noise, that sort of rumbling...it sure sounded a lot like a big wind in a bad storm.

"Lewis!" he heard his mother shout, "Lewis, run.   Get outside!"

She lurched into the room and started to shuffle toward him.   Her nightgown was scrunched around her chest, hanging from the waist in rags that tangled around her knees.   Joy and relief flooded him.   He let go of the wall, stumbled forward, then froze.   Mama was making a grab for the edge of the dining room table coasting toward her, but he could see behind her, see the huge breakfront Daddy had bought her for an anniversary gift slowly toppling away from the wall....

Glass exploded, splinters of it striking him, shredding his pajamas.   And he heard the crash and Mama's scream and saw the stars through the sudden hole in the dining room ceiling and everything seemed to stop for a second.   Then he was scrambling over the wreckage, clawing his way to his mother whose face and right arm were exposed to the night.

"I'll get you out, Mama," he called, tears tracking through the dust coating his face.

"Run, darling," she whispered when he reached her.   "Run to the street."

In vain he pushed on the side panel of the breakfront.

"Please, Lewis," she said, strangely calm.   "Do what Mama says."

"But you...you're--"

"Don't disobey me.   Do what I say right now."

Lewis's mind was spinning.   He couldn't move that piece of furniture.  Not alone.   He needed help.

"I'm gonna go find someone to help me get you out from under there," he said, taking a step back as the rolling of the floor slowed somewhat. The rumbling was distant now and he realized he couldn't hear Daddy screaming from the bedroom anymore.   "I'll be right back, Mama.   Understand? I'll be right back for you and Daddy.   "

"Yes, sweetheart," she said, voice weak.   "Hurry...hurry outside."

He limped around thc rubble, got to thc living room, and was just going through thc opened front door whcn anothcr scction of the roof fell in with a grcat crash.   Out on thc walk, he smelled gas and saw thc beams of flashlights darting around front lawns up and down thc block.   Thc street was lumpy and brokcn, thc houses across thc way all crumplcd in front.   Panic shook him, but he didn't havc time for it.   He needcd to get help fast.

He heard people, and he headcd for the voices and flashlights, screaming as he ran.

"Help! Help mc! Please...somebody!"

Thcn he trippcd on a new hill on the lawn and fell hard, face down.   He hurt all over...and he cried.   But he didn't stay there.   Struggling to his feet, hc uas suddcnly blindcd by a beam of light.

"It's thc Crane boy," a man looming ovcr him yelled.   "Come hcre quick!"

People were all around him forcing him onto his back on the ground.   He tried to shove them away.   "Hclp, please.   My Mama and Daddy arc still inside. Mama's trappcd.   You've-- "

"Easy, son," came thc voice of thc man holding him down.   "It's me...Mr. Haussman from across thc street.   Don't worry, we'll get your parents out."

"God, look at him," a woman said as people played their flashlight beams across his tattered pajamas.   "He's bleeding premy badly.   I--Oh, my Lord! Look at his arm!"

Lewis rolled onto his side to see what she was pointing at.   A piece of glass as big as a baseball card was sticking out of his upper left arm.   He didn't even feel it.   He didn't feel the arm at all.

"My Mama's trapped," he said, and a shadow reached doun and jerked hard, pulling the shard from his flesh.   "Please help her."

The woman choked and turned away as Lewis stared at the blood squirting furiously out of his arm where she'd removed the glass.

"Dammit," Mr.   Haussman muttered.   He ripped the rest of Lewis's pajama shirt offand tied it just above the squirting blood.   "We've got to get him to a hospital."

"My pickup truek," said Mr.   Eornell, the next door neighbor.   "We can put him in the back of that."

"Get it," Mr.   Haussman said, and Mr.   Comell went charging off.

"My parents...." Lewis said, trying to get up, only to have Mr.   Haussman push him baek down.

"We'll get them out," the man said, then turned to the others, speeterS behind the beams of their flashlights.   "Can somebody get into the house and look for the Cranes?"

The ground shook again, everyone reacting loudly, one lady even moaning as if in pain.

Several men ran toward his house, Lewis noted with relief.   "What's happening?" he asked, grabbing Mr. Haussman's shirtsleeve.

"Earthquake, son," the man said, tightening the knot on his makeshift tourniquet.   "A big one."

"I-I smelled g-gas," Lewis said, trying to rise once again.

"Gas?" Haussman looked alarmed.   "Oh, no."

He lowered Lewis to the ground and stood, directing his beam at Mr.  Cornell in the pickup truck next door.   "George!" he shouted, "don't surt the-- "

A monstrous explosion turned the pitch night into bright day.   Lewis, propped up on his elbows, watched a giant fireball engulf his house, Mr. Cornell's house, and the pickup truck itself.

Agonized screams tore the air.   Burning men ran from his house; Mr. Cornell was a fiery, writhing twig in the cab of his truck.   Lewis lay stupefied as smoldering debris fell all around him, his mind frozen in pain and horror.

He was a child, but he understood that he had just lost everything, that the love and protection of home and family were gone forever.   Fires crackled and raged barely fifty feet from him, causing sweat to spring out of every pore, and making the grass, already slick with his blood, become slippery as ice. Both elbows glided out from under him.   Flat on his back, he stared up at a starfield that was startlingly brilliant and cold and very far away.

Lewis Crane was alone.

Meet the Author

Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) was one of the supreme science fiction writers of the century and achieved vast popularity with 2001: A Space Odyssey, which extended into a series of four books & two short stories. Other notable works include his Rama series of novels and the Hugo Award-winning short story The Star. Clarke augmented his fame later on in the 1980s, from being the host of several television shows such as Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 16, 1917
Date of Death:
March 19, 2008
Place of Birth:
Minehead, Somerset, England
Place of Death:
Sri Lanka
1948, King's College, London, first-class honors in Physics and Mathematics

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