I've been approached by several different authors recently (generally authors publishing their first books or self-publishing) to read and review their books. I guess I've left a helpful review or two on Amazon because I doubt many of my reviews here have been noticed by anyone. The most recent author seeking a review was Mike Sheridan, who is publishing his first dystopian post-apocalyptic novel, Winter's Edge. This is yet another eBook I've read on my tablet. And I didn't hate it. Maybe my anti-eBook curmudgeonliness is turning...
I understood the basic premise of Winter's Edge before I started reading it and was hoping for a gritty, engaging post-apocalyptic adventure, but the bleak world of the novel felt so similar to the recent crop of dystopian fictional worlds that are ubiquitous these days (Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner) that I wondered if this was just an adult version of one of these stories. Admittedly, I've only seen the film adaptations of these teen novels and have not read the source material, though all the books are all in my home and have been read by the kids. Maybe I'm wrong and they are better than the film adaptations - it wouldn't be the first time.
I'm happy to report that I found this to be much better than the aforementioned teen-targeted dystopian novels (unless the books are a lot better than the movies).
The grim, dystopian future depicted in Winter's Edge quickly became much more real than the two dimensional worlds in any of the previously mentioned teen novels. Mike Sheridan's world felt a lot like the Steve Stirling's Emberverse - but with guns, internal combustion and cell phones/drones. Unlike the premise of Stirling's world (another series I really enjoy), a world-wide war and a second US civil war is behind the United States returning to a much more dangerous version of the Wild West. Warring tribes control much of the country (think Road Warrior) and the more civilized locations are ruled with an iron fist. Winter's Edge, the first novel in a new series, focuses on one small geographic area of the US (my impression is that it's the same geographic area Steve Stirling focuses on, interestingly), but it sounds like the rest of the US is similarly affected by the same chaos.
Frank Brogan, the protagonist of the story, is your typical super action hero. I imagine him as a more formidable Jason Bourne-type; a tough, handsome guy who is also an expert marksman with a heart of gold. But he's far from perfect. He's made plenty of mistakes in his past and is prone to making the same dumb mistakes that anyone else would make as he attempts to hand out retribution on those who have stolen purpose from his life.
Brogan's new friend was Dan Staunton. He had come to New Haven after the war, and had been a metal worker in the Eastern Industrial Zone, scraping by month to month, getting nowhere a little faster each year.
"You know what, Frank? I voted for Haskins first time she came into office," Staunton told Brogan, looking at him intently. "Believed all her promises about her inclusive society bullshit, hook, line and sinker. What a fool I was. There is no New American Dream, only the same fat cats taking all the cream, playing us for suckers again."
Staunton's face was becoming increasingly animated as he talked. "After four years, I finally got a promotion and applied to move into a S-2 neighborhood. Wife had been pestering me about it forever. Didn't take long to figure out all I'd done was swap one shitty little shoebox for another. Paid a lot of money to change zonecode, that's all."
"I hear you, brother," Brogan said. He had listened to similar stories many times before, and they never made him feel good. Moving up from S-1 to S-2 was about as far as most people got. There just weren't enough real jobs out there to get any further.
As I said, I didn't "love" this book when I started reading it, but that quickly changed. I couldn't put it down once I moved past the first couple of chapters. I binge-read the rest of the book in one day after I started it. My only complaint with Winter's Edge is the abrupt ending. But I guess all stories have to end somewhere. I very much look forward to dropping back into the story when the sequel is published.
I thought, based on the premise, the author was going to take a solidly libertarian, anti-big government approach to describing the failure of the US-experiment, but he is fair-and-even with exposing the weaknesses and strengths of a strong government as well as the almost-no government approach to running a city-state. There's definitely some pro-small farmer/anti-big agricorp farming stuff here, too. So if you work for Monsanto, part of this book might piss you off. But it all sounds reasonable to me. I guess that's just my inner-anarchist/hippy peeking out.
A warning: this is a novel intended for adults, so it does contain profanity (no shortage of F-bombs) and some sex (not super-graphic, but graphic enough). I would think twice before sharing it with teens.
I mentioned a real-life Dilbert experience I recently had at work and last Sunday's Dilbert cartoon is scary-close to what actually happened to me at work, so I guess since I'm already here, I might as well spill...
Some backstory: my current employer allows me to work from home one day per week. So I tele-work on Fridays. A week ago, we had an all-hands meeting scheduled with the Director, so tele-working on Friday wasn't an option that week. I emailed my manager about tele-working on an alternate day and received an unexpected response...
From: Pointy-Haired Boss Sent: Monday, April 18, 2016 6:42 AM To: Pointy-Haired Boss Employees Subject: RE: All Hands Meeting
It's my understanding the day was selected to repurpose tele-working this week, since most of the staff tele-works on Friday it's the least disruptive time.
Repurpose Tele-working? What kind of management mumbo-jumbo is that? How is coming into the office (actually, an alternate location that's not as close as the office to my home) on the one day I don't have to drive my car repurposing tele-working? Replacing, maybe.
Ugh. If I ever get promoted to a management zombie (little chance of that happening), somebody should put a bullet in my zombie-infested brain.