James tells the story of a nuclear power plant employee racing to save New York City from destruction in this thriller.
Trace Crane, a control-room supervisor at the Bear Mountain Nuclear Energy Center in the Hudson Valley, is about to meet his wife and daughter for a much-needed long weekend at a friend’s beach house in Greenwich, Connecticut, when the entire center begins to move: “the shaking hit like a mortar detonation, like Godzilla had grabbed the building and was trying to rattle all its contents out.” It’s an earthquake that causes a stationwide blackout; coolant isn’t getting to the reactors, which means that a full nuclear meltdown is imminent. Trace’s thoughts go immediately to his wife, Avi, and young daughter, Brooklyn, who get separated in the chaos when the 6.4 earthquake hits their town of Peekskill, New York. It falls to Trace to stabilize the reactors and find his family—if he can calm his nerves and focus. As the situation deteriorates, however, doing the right things becomes increasingly difficult: He may be able to save New York from annihilation—but if he does so, he may never see his family again. James writes in a taut, propulsive prose style that wrings a surprising amount of tension and dynamism out of the situation, particularly considering the book’s nearly 400-page length. Trace is a delightfully flawed hero—both inside and out, according to the author’s unflattering descriptions: “Stress, anger, and annoyance hung heavy in his jowls, ebullience springing free in unexpected smatterings of rising cheeks. Trace scratched at a patch of chronic psoriasis on his nose—a crust of pinkish-white flaky skin falling onto his paperwork.” James also isn’t afraid to get into the minutiae of just how a nuclear reactor works—and how one would fail—creating a foundation of verisimilitude on which the disaster-movie–style plot turns rest. James doesn’t reinvent the genre, but he does succeed in creating a claustrophobic and anxiety-producing thriller that will keep readers counting down to the final second.
A suspenseful and entertaining disaster novel.