A First-Order Disaster Story About an Atmospheric River
Many, if not most, authors get genre-locked by either their publisher or their audience, denying us the opportunity to see the full range of their interests and talents. Fortunately, that is not the case with author James D. Best. Jim began writing the Steve Dancy westerns a number of years ago, and I’ve enjoyed reading many of these novels. But earlier this year, I read a completely different work of his, The Shut Mouth Society, reviewed here. It brought a new dimension to his oeuvre, and to me a new appreciation of his writing talents.
Now I’ve finished another not-Steve-Dancy work, Deluge, his most recent novel. It concerns a natural phenomenon called the atmospheric river, which occurs over California from time to time and dumps an extraordinary amount of rain on the state. Water vapor begins to collect over the Hawaiian Islands, then begins moving across the Pacific toward the West Coast, broaching land and dispersing massive and endless rainstorms all the way to the Sierra Nevada mountains, as this Los Angeles Times illustration shows.
Best mentions this in context in his novel, and without calling undue attention to it demonstrates its potential for all-out destruction and social disruption quite realistically. It’s to his credit that he focuses his attention on the human element of the deluge, rather than going all technical on the reader. We read as citizens, law enforcement, academia, politicians and outlaw gangs deal with the deluge. In the process, Best makes this a compelling—indeed frightening—story. Again and again I was impressed with Best’s characterizations and grasp of how profoundly a storm such as this can disrupt life. The potential power of water stayed with me for days.
This is a highly recommended natural disaster thriller, written with acute attention to reality and little, if any, needless melodramatics.