We all know I mostly buy my science fiction books based on their covers. Usually that actually works out well and I actually end up really liking the story inside. Sometimes, however, the cover is probably the only worthwhile part of the book. But when the cover is as great as the one on The Second Atlantis by Robert Moore Williams (1965), it is impossible to be disappointed. [And since you know you want to, why not check out the back cover, and a super awesome drawing from page one!]
This book tells the story of the much anticipated disaster that will occur when a series of powerful earthquakes break California off from the rest of the country and sink it into the sea (well, actually its only the Los Angeles Basin, but that would still be pretty significant). The book shifts back and forth between a rather preachy overview of the disaster and a chronological look at how select individuals (a young family, a prophet, a gangster, and a rich playboy) are coping with the crisis. Mostly it just isn't written very well, although towards the end the plot does become a little more compelling.
Here is an example:
Mary Uller was a good woman. She had been a good woman all her life. If being a good woman -- as she meant the words -- had never seemed short of a perfect life, she carefully hid this thought from the world and from herself. She smiled at the world. She smiled on the way to church, in church, and on the way home from church. If she ever had a bad thought, a sexual thought, she buried it under a smile, confident that no one would find it hidden there. At work, where she was a secretary, if she made a mistake, she smiled as she corrected the error.
When the quake began, the smile faltered, slipped, and fell away. A scream was under it. Under the scream was panic. Feeling from the very proper apartment building where she lived, she had lost her smile.
A piece of stone from the edge of the roof struck her on the head. It splashed brains all over the sidewalk.
Okay, I will concede that that last sentence is pretty awesome.