The Shaking

Seismic terror is about to strike...

Maverick geologist Brian McLean was ridiculed when he warned London and south east England were at imminent risk of suffering a major earthquake. But when the unthinkable happens buildings collapse, power grids crash, transport is gridlocked, and high-tech life grinds to a shuddering halt.

In the stunned aftermath courier Ryan Buckland journeys through a shattered city to be reunited with his family, Deputy Prime Minister Stuart Pullman sees the emergency as his chance to seize power, while nuclear engineer Alan Carter desperately tries to avert a far greater catastrophe. If he fails, destructive aftershocks will be the least of our problems...

A homage to penny dreadful natural disaster potboilers, The Shaking will rock you to your very core!

A 103,000 word novel. Rated PG 16.


45. Author's Note

Congratulations on making it through to the end! I hope you found it worth the effort.

As with the disaster thrillers The Shaking pays homage to, the novel is a mixture of fact and fiction. For those of you who are wondering nervously could it really happen? I have both good and bad news.

The idea for this story came about when an internet search brought up a link describing how the UK is at risk of suffering a fatal earthquake. I was intrigued by the idea and slowly the genesis of the plot began to take shape; especially when I learned that even in earthquake prone areas which are intensely studied such as the San Andreas fault region in California, seismologists are still discovering previously unknown features.

I must stress that even though the UK does experience minor tremors from time to time, there is no danger of the fictional megaquake I describe occurring. Given that, you can be reassured the Dungeness B power station won't suffer the cataclysmic fate I described in the book. In fact it would take an unlikely series of worst case events for anything to go wrong there.

My online reasearch about the the complex came up with a dearth of technical information with which to construct a chain of events leading to a disaster, as there exists a culture of secrecy surrounding the nuclear industry: So taking my cue from the genre's canon I invoked my artistic licence and winged it. Hence the interior layout of the reactor described in the closing stages of the story is entirely a product of my imagination.

If I had access to a better source of information than a blurry 1960s era cut away illustration of the unit I discovered online I might have been able to produce a more realistic portrayal. But given the paranoia of our age, with the fear that were detailed descriptions made publicly available a jihadist armed with a multitool and windproof lighter might break into the plant and attempt to lay waste to several counties, it was left to me to fill in the gaps.

Yes, I might have contacted the relevant press office and asked some questions; in the process becoming a Person of Interest and being involuntarily entered onto some more databases. I could even have taken the guided tour of Dungeness - provided I didn't mind being treated as a potential suspect and having my name screened in advance - but I decided not to. If anyone connected with the nuclear industry is reading this and gnashing their teeth as a result, well tough luck! You made your ridiculously security obsessed bed and you can lie in it!

In any case the threat posed by nuclear power in my opinion comes not from the occasional disaster such a Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three Mile Island - bad enough as they are - and of course our very own airbrushed from history Windscale, but the humdrum day to day operation of such facilities. Not to mention the intrinsic connection between the 'civil' nuclear programme and the creation of nuclear weapons materials, as well as how the existence of the Nuclear Security State poses an ongoing threat to our civil rights.

From the pollution caused by uranium mining tailings all the way through the nuclear fuel cycle to the eventual disposal of the spent fuel rods and radioactive waste, the nuclear industry continually creates new radiological hazards along with opportunities for accidents or human error. We can only hope the real life Alan Carters are able to mitigate the risks as best they can.

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 exists in law. In theory it's provisions are subject to the Human Rights Act, but at the time of writing the government proposes to repeal the HRA and replace it with a far weakend Bill of Rights. In any case, were the UK to be affected by such an incident, the government of the day would most likely just push aside such inconvenient little trifles as our freedoms and do what they wanted to anyway.

An interesting aside on the CCA: When the law was being drafted one early provision which was later ammended listed one of the criteria under which the act could be invoked as the risk of a severe threat to the UK economy. Had the original clause been kept then just a few years later - with a global financial meltdown in progress, along with some UK banks as well as building societies teetering on the edge of insolvency - we might have found ourselves living under a Gordon Brown declared State of Emergency.

The PINDAR Whitehall bunker complex exists in real life, though having never been inside it my description of it is speculative.

As far as I know the mass distribution of official goverment emergency apps which write themselves into devices' operating systems to avoid deletion is hopefully only fiction. However the detectors which use phone cameras to detect gamma radiation are factual, and several of them can be downloaded for free. A few examples include...

Unfortunately the devolved Scottish government does have ideas above its station and is developing a surveillance network independent of Westminster. Smart TVs may well become part of the Orwellian nexus as they can be used to eavesdrop on their viewers.

Finally, if I ever should be proved wrong or you find yourself in the midst of an earthquake somewhere else, I hope this link will come in  useful.

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