The Rift is a 1999 science fiction novel by American writer Walter Jon Williams. It concerns the effects of a massive earthquake in the US states of Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Largely using the 1811-12New Madrid earthquake as a base, he depicts the breakdown of infrastructure that would result if an earthquake of equal magnitude were to occur today.
The title of the novel is a double-entendre. It is a reference to the theory that the New Madrid quake was the result of a failed "rifting" of North America, but also to the deep racial and social divides that are portrayed throughout the story.
The novel primarily follows the story of a white teenager and an African-American man on their journey down the devastated Mississippi River.
Although the focus of the novel is the journey of the two main characters, there are dozens of side-stories and parallel plot lines throughout the book. Some of which are: a preacher who leads his flock to believe that the end has come, a Sheriff (and KKK member) who begins a program of genocide against the people left homeless by the disaster, a technician struggling to keep a Louisiana nuclear power plant from melting down, and an Army Corps of Engineers commander trying to curtail the devastation wrought by the failure of the levee system.