Belle Bridge Books, 4/15/2011
Trade Paperback, 246 pages
St. Simons Island, Georgia, has never been hit by a Category 5 hurricane. Until now. No one predicted the storm's sudden force. A crippled Air Force recon plane, trapped in the eye of a violent hurricane. An outspoken tropical weather forecaster, fired from his network TV job before he can issue a warning: the storm is changing course and intensifying. A desperate family searching for a runaway daughter on Georgia's posh St. Simons Island, cut off from escape as the hurricane roars toward them. A marriage on the rocks; an unrequited sexual attraction; a May-December romance. All will be swept up by the monster storm. Get ready for a white-knuckle adventure.
It seems like Eyewall by H.W. Buzz Bernard should have been a guaranteed winner, after all it features a category 5 hurricane making landfall in Georgia. I'm a long-time weather geek and have followed storms and systems with rapt enthusiasm for years. Additionally I gave my highest endorsement to Bernard's second book, Plague so I was really looking forward to Eyewall. Alas, there were a few flaws in this debut novel. There were also a few things he did right.
Hurricane Janet starts out as a category 1, but it soon begins to intensify due to rapidly changing weather conditions. Bernard's story basically follows three different men: a weather channel expert forecaster Dr. Nicholas Obermeyer; Air Force Hurricane hunter Major Arly Walker; vacationing family man Alan Grant. As Obermeyer fights his boss to air an evacuation warning when he realizes the hurricane is strengthening, Walker and crew fly into the storm unaware of the danger they are facing. Grant and his family are on St. Simons Island, which is now the targeted area where the hurricane will make landfall.
All of the weather information, the changing conditions are based on solid information and years of personal experience, so this was a definite plus in Bernard's novel. The crew flying into the hurricane and what they experience, is all very captivating and riveting. The Grant family... not so much.
I didn't like one character associated with the Grant family and found that whole storyline annoying at best. One reviewer somewhere mentioned that he felt this might be more of a guy's novel. He's right. There is not one woman I have ever known who wakes up very early in the morning, worried about the approaching hurricane, and then decides they want to make coffee for their man, bring it to him, and then talk like a pirate wench while initiating sex. And oops, while this scenario was playing out their 15 yr. old daughter slipped out of the house to meet a strange guy she met online. Now they must rescue her. I won't even go into the other issues I had with this group.
I was good with the other characters, but good grief, the female characters were all a joke. Okay, Donna the shrewish wife of the Major was so over-the-top in her venomous comments it was cartoonish. And, again, what's with the fantasy material? In the event that a young woman and her older co-worker are fired from their forecasting jobs because they have tried to warn people about an approaching catastrophic storm and they head to his place for breakfast, what young woman is going to start making eggs, excuse herself to go to the bathroom, and come out in her sexy underwear to seduce said older co-worker? Really? really?
Toward the end I had to ignore a couple of other events/actions that had me shaking my head.
In conclusion: the science is solid, and presented in a way that is easily understood and follow even if you aren't a weather geek, and following the flight into the storm and the subsequent crises was gripping-nail-biting suspense, but there are a few problems that prevent me from going more than Recommended.
AIRBORNE, 175 MILES SOUTHEAST OF THE GEORGIA COASTLABOR DAY SUNDAY, 0800 HOURS Dead ahead of the aircraft, a massive redoubt of roiling clouds, the eyewall of Hurricane Janet, billowed toward the heavens and poked into the underbelly of the stratosphere. Between the aircraft, an Air Force Hurricane Hunter, and the towering wall, layers of white and gray clouds, innocuous outliers of the storm, cluttered the skyscape. But the eyewall itself was obsidian, foreboding. opening
“Don’t be such a dick head. At least admit it was our decision. I thought we agreed your career in the Reserve was shot to hell. No more promotions. Stuck in-grade.”
“It doesn’t matter, I love to fly.”
“The point is, not only is your Reserve job in the toilet, so is your bank job,” she snapped. “Your real job.”
“I’m an assistant vice president.”
“Dime-a-dozen. You should be an executive vice president by now, climbing the corporate ladder, investing your extra time at the bank instead of tootling around in cloud formations with your tin-soldier flyboy buds.” Location 251-263
For thirty years, he’d studied rapidly intensifying hurricanes, and over the last ten had forged a theory, the essence of which he’d scribbled onto an old-fashioned paper checklist. Inflow, outflow. Stability, instability. An upper-air low pressure center here. A high pressure ridge there. On and on. Twenty-two factors. Until this morning, he’d never seen them all positive, all favorable. Now he was looking at a monster-in-the-making. Location 468-473
Again McSwanson fell silent. When he finally spoke, his words came out wrapped in a growl. “Although I know it’s a stretch, just give it to me straight. What are ya seein’ that nobody else is?”
Obermeyer started to speak, but to his surprise, no words came out. He cleared his throat and tried again. “A cat four or five landfalling somewhere along the south Georgia coast by early evening.” Location 1048-1054
"You gotta squeeze people off that island like they were coming out of a sausage grinder at warp speed. You’ve got Andrew’s big sister coming at you.” Location 3825-3826
“It’s not a mother-thing, it’s a woman-thing. Don’t you know it’s a female prerogative to comfort, to soothe, to give approbation?” Location 5763-5764