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Publisher's Summary

The international best-selling author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa vividly brings to life the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake that leveled a city symbolic of America's relentless western expansion. Simon Winchester has also fashioned an enthralling and informative look at the tumultuous subterranean world that produces earthquakes, the planet's most sudden and destructive force.

In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, San Francisco and a string of other towns were overcome by an earthquake registering 8.25 on the Richter scale, resulting from a rupture in the San Andreas fault. Lasting little more than a minute, the earthquake wrecked 490 blocks, toppled a total of 25,000 buildings, broke open gas mains, cut off electric power lines, and effectively destroyed the gold rush capital that had stood there for a half century.

Winchester brings his inimitable storytelling abilities, as well as his unique understanding of geology, to this extraordinary event, exploring not only what happened in northern California in 1906 but what we have learned since about the geological underpinnings that caused the earthquake in the first place. A Crack in the Edge of the World is the definitive account of the San Francisco earthquake and a fascinating exploration of a legendary event that changed the way we look at the planet on which we live.

©2005 Simon Winchester (P)2005 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

  • 2005 Audie Award Nominee, Nonfiction (Unabridged)

"In this brawny page-turner, best-selling writer Winchester (Krakatoa, The Professor and the Madman) has crafted a magnificent testament to the power of planet Earth and the efforts of humankind to understand her." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Another excellent book by Simon Winchester

As he did with "Krakatoa", Winchester follows seemingly unrelated, meandering paths which all converge in San Francisco in April, 1906. He sets the stage with a discussion of the geologic history of the North American continent, traces the development of San Francisco from a rough camp to a city and brings to life many of its more colorful citizens. As was the case with "Krakatoa", the author reads his own work and thereby enhances it. His enthusiasm for his topic radiates through the pages, but his delivery is so well polished that the book suffers not one whit from the choppier readings often encountered by narrators who are not professionally trained in voice. This was a great book and a great listening experience.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Julia
  • Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, United States
  • 11-13-05

This book does not succeed

Winchester can turn a phrase, but he doesn't succeed in creating a worthy book about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He spends so much time detailing the history of geology, America, California, and San Francisco, that the earthquake doesn't even happen until the second part of the download. You might think all this additional information weaves a fabulous introduction to this horrendous event, but he bites off more than he can chew. The coverage of these many (many) ancillary areas winds up being superficial. Then, when he actually gets to the earthquake itself (after an eternity), it seems like he spends a lot of time citing boring statistics. I was hoping for more personal accounts. His idea of personal accounts is describing how a half dozen or so individuals determined the precise time of the earthquake, down to the second. The portion of the book devoted to the actual quake is really small, after which he again goes off on more superficial commentary on such topics as the immigration challenges of the Chinese.

The last 18 minutes is an interview with Winchester (which is also available on Audible as a free download). I recommend that you just listen to that instead, as it is a relatively pithy recount of the book.

If you simply must download this book, consider starting on Part 2.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Alex
  • Rockville, MD, USA
  • 11-08-05

Very Interesting Story and Well Read

The only reason I didn't give this book five stars is that I try to reserve 5 stars for the very best and the book would be dry for some people with the geology. I have read or listened five or six other Simon Winchester books and have enjoyed all of them. I enjoy his combination of science, history, sociology and travel.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Would you rather live in Hurricane Country?

The geology in the book was powerfully described and extremely interesting. As someone who lived in the Bay Area for more than 20 years and experienced the 1989 quake, I found the attitude in this book offensive. A key message of the book -over and over and over again- is that people shouldn't be living near or on the San Andreas fault. Has he considered the probabilities of hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis? Where would he have us all live? He showed a complete lack of empathy for those living in the Bay Area in 1906 or 1989.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Another fascinating yarn of history

read by the author, who is an excellent narrator, this is another engrossing tale from Simon Winchester. I wish all Audible narrators were so easy and enjoyable on the ears!

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

History read by a snob

I really wanted to like this book. I've been studying up on geology and earthquakes and thought this would be a good addition to my base of knowledge. He almost immediately takes a swipe at anyone who believes in God, which why in the world he felt the need to inject this was beyond me. Anyway, I brushed that away and kept listening. As Julia has already said, the first part is a history of geology. Personally I thought that part was pretty good but I didn't buy the book for a history of geology, I bought it for a history of the 1906 event. When he finally gets around to the earthquake it fell short in my opinion. It seemed he spent more time trying to convince the listener that San Fran citizens were anti-Chinese bigots than with the event itself.
I did find it interesting that he tied the San Fran earthquake to the Azusa Street Revival. That is a point in history that is rarely mentioned.
The last part of the book was outright torture. He recounts his 3,000+ mile journey to the Alaska pipeline in painful detail. Once he reaches the pipeline section that goes across the fault, he lets the reader know that he secretly wished he had some C4 explosives so he could blow the thing up....I kid you not. This guy DRIVES over 3,000 miles, burning gas the whole time, just to look at one of the man made creations that helped produce the fuel he needed to perform this task and his first thought isn't "Wow, wasn't this designed well!" No, to the contrary, his first thought is "Sure wish I had some plastic explosives." Keep sharp instruments away from this man please.
Finally, as if I needed more evidence to convince me this guy is a class A snob, he lets the reader know that the primary hallmark he uses to identify a town that is nothing but a habitation for white trash is.....get this....a Walmart.
I want my 7+ hrs of my life back.