The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Things Fall Apart

Posted on | May 9, 2014 | 32 Comments

— by Wombat-socho

Literally and figuratively, this is the plot of John Barnes’ Daybreak novels, which start with Directive 51 and continue on through Daybreak Zero and The Last President. These have a very weird feel to them; the basic plot, in which ecosaboteurs spread genetically engineered plastic- and gasoline-eating bacteria along with nanobots designed to wreck electronics, is very reminiscent of both S. M. Stirling’s Change novels (Dies the Fire) and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, while also containing elements of Barnes’ previous apocalyptic novel, the nightmarish Kaleidoscope Century. The Daybreak novels give you a front-row ringside seat for the collapse of global civilization as scattered, seemingly anarchic ecoterrorists, religious nutjobs, and hippie fruitcakes plunge the America into bloody chaos, exacerbated by a split of the Federal government into Provisional and Temporary factions over the issue of who’s in charge and whether Daybreak is a conventional enemy that needs to be crushed by military force or a memetic weapon that needs to be countered by other means. I’ve finished the first two novels, am going back for the third today, and can attest that these are some good -if occasionally squicky- reading. Barnes makes a powerful argument in these books for the power of ideas, and also recognizes that there’s times when nothing but brute force will do.

This is shaping up to be a busy year for John C. Wright. Not only has he (courteously and with cold logic) shaken the dust of the SFWA from his sandals, he is concluding the crazy, wildly inventive, millennium-spanning series of evolutionary novels started in Count to a Trillion with The Judge of Ages, not only has he had the massive cojones to write sequels to William Hodgson’s half-forgotten “The Night Land” (Awake in the Night Land) , he’s also put together a collection of essays: Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth which I have seen excerpts of. I don’t know if Mr. Wright is the best SF author out there, but in these sad times when it seems every competent tale slinger is surrounded by packs of dull-witted, unhousebroken PC puppies with not a tenth of his talent, he’s definitely in my top ten. Go read his stuff. You’ll thank me later.

Speaking of the whole SFWA and Hugos kerfluffle, Vox Day’s Hugo-nominated “Opera Vita Aeterna” is one of the three stories in The Last Witchking, which I snapped up when it was offered for free last month. All three stories are set in the universe of Day’s A Throne of Bones, and are definitely not your usual elf & dwarf crap. I thought they were all pretty good, with the nominee story the best, but they’ve accomplished their main goal, which is to get me to read -and maybe buy- more of Vox’s stuff.

I hardly need that prodding to read Sarah Hoyt’s writing. On the contrary, I was frustrated that it took me as long as it did to pick up A Few Good Men. However, I haven’t read much of her fantasy, so I thought I’d try out Where Horse And Hero Fell, a short story involving a computer geek suddenly thrust into a leadership role in a wizards’ guild. It was a fun read, but I’m not sure it’s worth $1.99; stories like this are a good reason to have Amazon Prime, so you can borrow them for free.

Finally, I have to admit the trailers for Edge of Tomorrow are looking very interesting, if for no other reason than the protagonist’s cycle of death/rebirth/combat/death/rebirth/etc. reminds me of the undeservedly obscure On My Way to Paradise by Dave Wolverton. I’m giving serious thought to picking up the movie’s source novel, All You Need Is Kill, though I may pick up the manga instead.

So…what’s on your summer reading list?

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32 Responses to “Things Fall Apart”

  1. Wombat’s Summer of Dystopian Reading | Batshit Crazy News
    May 9th, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

    […] Wombat’s Summer Reading Suggestions […]

  2. Joseph Dooley
    May 9th, 2014 @ 6:33 pm

    Wrapping up Catch-world by Chris Boyce. It’s a fast-moving, bizarre space odyssey clocking in at 250 pages in paperback. Tight plotting.

  3. Bradoplata
    May 9th, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

    Wish Day would write some more Throne of Bones stuff.

  4. K-Bob
    May 9th, 2014 @ 7:33 pm

    Holy crap! The Wright article you linked was a sad commentary on what has befallen the American mind (And it’s fairly obvious that it’s a very American-oriented thing of which he writes).

    Many of the comments at the site are all the evidence one needs to back up what John C. Wright was describing. It’s as if the 20th Century’s promising expansion of philosophy and scientific enquiry went out with a wheeze, leaving the 21st to start up with the oleaginous flux of ‘LOL’-driven bleacher snark, junk science, and a preference for living on handouts.

    I’ve been a fairly tough critic of Glenn Beck this past year, but God luvvim’ for attempting some pushback on the ruined state of American film and television culture. But we need some similar pushback in the area of writing. I hope somehow the world of publishing doesn’t simply become like the ancient days of Geek sophists on their pedestals. (Where selling one’s writing is purely an exercise like that with which we see Stacy engaged daily.)

    I prefer to be an individualist myself, and I’d definitely do it the, “Roll your own,” way Stacy has done it, and the way Leo Laporte has done it. But we’re going to need something like publishing houses to help combat the decline of cerebration. If the SFWA has fallen for groupthink, it’s hard to imagine how long the current darkness will run.

  5. David, infamous sockpuppet
    May 9th, 2014 @ 8:26 pm

    Actuallly, Wright has another two books planned in the “Count to a Trillion” series.

  6. M. Thompson
    May 9th, 2014 @ 8:47 pm

    Well, I found of copy of Kipling’s WWI era “Sea Warfare” stories in a used bookstore yesterday. It should be a good start.

  7. Wombat_socho
    May 9th, 2014 @ 9:35 pm

    With people like Sarah Hoyt, Larry Correia, John C. Wright and about 90% of the Baen authors giving them the cold shoulder, I don’t think SFWA is going to be terribly relevant in the years to come, and nothing of value will be lost with their irrelevance. Amazon will be happy to publish what the mainstream media clones in the dwindling publishing industry reject.

  8. Wombat_socho
    May 9th, 2014 @ 9:35 pm

    I’ll be in my bunk.

  9. rustypaladin
    May 9th, 2014 @ 10:01 pm

    Currently reading Brian McClellan’s latest book “The Crimson Campaign”. It’s pretty good so far. Just finished reading “Orphanage” and “Orphan’s Destiny” by Robert Buettner. “Orphan’s Journey” is on the schedule. Waiting for Skin Game by Jim Butcher to come out in a couple weeks.

  10. richard mcenroe
    May 9th, 2014 @ 10:07 pm

    From what I gather, Edge of Tomorrow is based on either a Japanese manga or novel.

  11. Wombat_socho
    May 9th, 2014 @ 11:47 pm

    Yes, a light novel, All You Need Is Kill, which has also been released as a manga, both referred to supra.

  12. Anamika
    May 10th, 2014 @ 1:18 am

    Science fiction is not exactly my cup of tea, but your passion for Barnes’ work tempts me in that direction. Thanks, Wombat!

    This summer, I’ve planned to read (or rather re-read) John Toland’s “Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography” & Kafka’s “The Castle.”

  13. K-Bob
    May 10th, 2014 @ 2:53 am

    I hope so. Sounds like not everyone has lost it.

    Apropos Beck, he says similar things about people from Hollywood who are hoping to be brought into the production nexus he’s got going. The way he tells it, you’d believe his phone is ringing off the hook with people anxious to make movies people actually want to see.

  14. Warren Hall
    May 10th, 2014 @ 3:27 am

    You should try John Ringo’s
    Under a graveyard Sky
    To Sail a Darkling Sea

    When an airborne “zombie” plague is released, bringing civilization to a
    grinding halt, the Smith family, Steven, Stacey, Sophia and Faith, take to the
    Atlantic to avoid the chaos. The plan is to find a safe haven from the anarchy
    of infected humanity. What they discover, instead, is a sea composed of the
    tears of survivors and a passion for bringing hope.

  15. daphnis
    May 10th, 2014 @ 8:35 am

    If by “not your usual elf and dwarf crap,” you mean “extraordinarily terrible elf and dwarf crap,” your review makes sense. Otherwise, no.

  16. Daphnis
    May 10th, 2014 @ 8:35 am

    I hope not. Throne of Bones isn’t even hilarious, it’s just plodding and dull.

  17. Daphnis
    May 10th, 2014 @ 8:36 am

    I don’t think Wright, Day, and the Baen authors are terribly relevant.

  18. William_Teach
    May 10th, 2014 @ 9:05 am

    Hmm, I haven’t read John Barnes in years. I’m going to check this out.

    Hey, a couple great books. Check out Austin Dragon’s “After Eden” series. Nice bit of fiction with the backdrop of how Christianity and Judaism are under attack.

    Also, “In Due Time” by J.K. Jones, a fantastic time travel novel which has a background on the dangers of hardcore progressive ideology.

  19. Wombat_socho
    May 10th, 2014 @ 10:41 am

    Much like your commenting.

  20. Wombat_socho
    May 10th, 2014 @ 10:41 am

    Reviewed these in a previous book post. Good reads, both of them.

  21. Wombat_socho
    May 10th, 2014 @ 10:42 am

    Most elf and dwarf crap is terrible by definition, derivative and stale knockoffs of Tolkien.

  22. Wombat_socho
    May 10th, 2014 @ 10:43 am

    I liked the first couple of Buettner’s novels and then lost interest for some reason – probably me, not him.

  23. Wombat_socho
    May 10th, 2014 @ 10:50 am

    Lot of folks seem to disagree with you.

  24. Bradoplata
    May 10th, 2014 @ 11:08 am

    I disagree. The characters are engaging, the switching storyline of the different characters keeps the book moving along, and helps make for a surprisingly quick read.

    Also, the use of short stories to tell the back story keeps me interested while waiting for more content.

  25. brightlight
    May 10th, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

    Another good John Barnes book is ‘Mother of Storms’. The tech in it is kinda dated but the story holds up great. The UN kind of accidentally creates global warming that creates monster, as in near supersonic wind, hurricanes. Its up to the US to save the Earth and in a very fun way too.

  26. daphnis
    May 10th, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

    And yet Vox Day makes them look like Steph effing Swainston. Funny how that is.

  27. Hey You Guys, It’s Michael Sam’s Big Day | Regular Right Guy
    May 10th, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

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  28. Wombat_socho
    May 10th, 2014 @ 9:20 pm

    I can’t figure out if you’re trolling or if you’re actually this dim.

  29. daphnis
    May 10th, 2014 @ 10:38 pm

    Vox Day is a terrible writer, even by the standards of elf and dwarf crap.

  30. Wombat_socho
    May 11th, 2014 @ 6:16 am

    Okay, you’re definitely trolling. Bye.

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    May 11th, 2014 @ 6:56 am

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  32. Wombat_socho
    May 11th, 2014 @ 6:25 pm

    He’s just an all-round good writer. I’m especially fond of the Jak Jinnaka and Thousand Cultures novels; the Meme Wars series, not so much, though they too are very well done.