Peter Carpenter Schneider,
Shining City
(Writer's Showcase, 2000)

Peter Carpenter Schneider wastes no time pulling you into Shining City. Starting on page 2 and continuing for two chapters, readers are brought through the realistic and harrowing experiences of Tokyo residents as the second strongest earthquake of the last century decimates the capital of Japan. When the shaking is over and the dust begins to settle, you might just think you experienced this terrible calamity yourself.

The Japanese center of financial and political power is in ruins. Many people are dead, including several important government officials. Who is going to lead the Japanese into reconstructing their shining city? How will the cost of reconstruction be addressed? It would be easy to simply state that this is their problem. Throw some money and humanitarian aid Japan's way and let's get on with our own lives. Besides, everyone knows that the Japanese are so rich, they can take care of themselves.

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. To begin with, the destruction caused by the quake will disrupt the ability of many of Japan's larger companies to continue business as usual. Revenues will be down for years as they rebuild work sites and attempt to restore corporate records. With hundreds of billions of dollars needed to reconstruct an entire city, insurance claims will be astronomical. And these claims will be made to insurance companies all over the world. Also, the Japanese have invested more in other nations than any other country in the last several decades. What if they started a massive sell-off to bring home needed cash? A sell-off of this magnitude could decimate several markets. Japan is not quite so isolated as many might believe.

When the ripples of this disaster start spreading, the rest of the world definitely starts to notice. This novel focuses on major players from Tokyo, London and New York as they attempt to come up with solutions to the refinancing of an entire city that will not bankrupt the world. When East meets West, you can almost guarantee that the approach taken by either side will be different and in this case, they clash. Schneider does an excellent job of making the subtle nuances of the various societies involved seem all too real. He brings to life many characters from around the world who are all very believable. While Shining City does not have the complexity of a Tom Clancy novel, there are many threads to follow before Schneider brings them nicely together towards the end.

Schneider spent his career in the finance business. He worked in London for years at several leading Japanese banks. He obviously has the background to write a novel such as this dealing with international finance. But more importantly, he wrote the novel so that it drags you in, and then flows smoothly for 426 pages. He writes in such a way that you need not have a background in the financial world to understand what is going on with the implication that Tokyo's destruction would cause chaos on the world's financial stability. This is a good, easy-to-read story that I recommend if you have any interest in Japan and/or the financial world.

[ by Wil Owen ]

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