I decided to pick this one up to read in bite-sized chunks a few stories at a time. Then it was good. I read the whole thing in two days like the page turner it was. It’s kind of chilling, and while I don’t think things would go exactly this way, I also don’t think it would be too far off. That’s what makes it scary to me.
Anyway, the aforementioned page-turner, along with acres of grass-cutting, a D&D session, and a woodworking project plan, means the story I was supposed to finish is still left hanging. Gotta fix that soon.
I’ve also been doing a bit of digging/planning into purchasing a 3D modeling software package (Solidworks) and finally taking a stab at contract design work. Writing between profitable work-from-home engineering jobs sounds really good, but that first monetary step is a doozey! Wish me luck, because I’m about to pull that trigger (I think…*wince*).
Anyway… here’s the review!
When California declares independence, their dreams of socialist diversity become nightmares for many from the high Sierras to the Central Valley. Follow the lives of those who must decide whether to stand their ground, or flee!
In San Diego, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Group One finds his hands tied by red tape, even as protesters storm the base and attack dependents.
In Los Angeles, an airline mechanic must beg, borrow, or bribe to get his family on the plane out before the last flight out.
Elsewhere, a couple seeks out the new underground railroad after being forced to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.
In the new state of Jefferson, farmers must defend themselves against carpetbaggers and border raiders.
And in the high Sierras, a woman must make the decision to walk out alone…
Featuring all-new stories set after Calexit from JL Curtis, Bob Poole, Cedar Sanderson, Tom Rogneby, Alma Boykin, B Opperman, L B Johnson, Eaton Rapids Joe, Lawdog, and Kimball O’Hara.
And now my take on the book…
The premise of this anthology is real. The stories are fictions… we hope.
The prospect of California seceding from the Union after the 2016 election has been bandied about, and it gained more traction that one might think. 2020 is right around the proverbial corner, and its results within the current highly heated (boiling) political climate might end up being even more conducive to such conjecture.
This DYSTOPIAN anthology presumes a specific set of (mostly) common events surrounding an ACTUAL CALEXIT and projects them out to a conclusion. Now I will say the conclusions are biased. If you are even the slightest bit left of center, SKIP THIS BOOK! If you are right of center, just try to remember what happens if you drink too much of the Koolaide. Those caveats put forward, I can say that for what the collection is, it does a great job of focusing on consequences of letting ‘desired behavior’ be the focus of governance without regard to ‘human nature.’
I wish I could say that the stories in this book are far-fetched, but some of them are eerily prophetic considering what was known when they were written versus some current headlines in 2019 as I write this review. It’s scary to see a dystopian premise come to life before your eyes. Although, if one is a student of history, this is not the first time such things have happened.
The best thing about this anthology was the fact that it was a page turner. The stories, full of angst, tension and drama as they were, are still so well written that they suck you in and won’t let go of you until you finish. The level of ‘make me mad’ injustice used in some of the stories was like a sock to the gut sometimes, which made the endings that much more satisfying (and mandatory to reach before stopping).
What follows are individual story reviews. The way I reach my overall rating is to review each story (0-5 stars) and average them together for the book. For this anthology, I give 3.3 stars overall, and I call it a Gut Punch Read.
Be warned, the individual reviews probably contain spoilers:
A Matter of Honor by JL Curtis (4 star)
A SEAL Commander inherits the Navy’s fallback command inside the new Republic of Cali. The job of orderly withdrawal for U.S. Troops and their dependants turns ugly as resentful and criminal elements overrun the state.
I was shocked at this one a bit. It was written as a prequel to another novella, The Morning The Earth Shook, which I will no doubt have to read. The only reason it does not get 5 starts from me is the overabundance of mil-speak (which I do not comprehend) that seems to bog it down in places. The plot, pacing and characters are superb.
Last Plane Out by Bob Poole (3 stars)
An airplane mechanic watches civilized & prosperous society fall apart around him as he struggles to move his family out of Cali once their whiteness makes them persona non-grata.
The story is a bit slow, but does reflect a realistic picture of third-world warlordism and similar rule by mob might that you find in a crumbling society.
Carpetbaggers by Cedar Sanderson (4 stars)
A young man steps straight into adulthood as the needs of the new state of Jeffereson, as well as those of his family, neighbors & friends, become a responsibility he has to take on out of necessity.
This is a great story, if a bit odd in the juxtaposition of ‘frontier justice’ vs. ‘modern society’. A bit of it is hard to believe simply because there is a regression of technology that is too steep to justify. Setting that aside, however, the characters and plot are fantastic.
Night Passage by Tom Rogneby (5 stars)
A complete travesty—reversal, in fact—of justice for a raped woman forces her and her husband to flee for their very lives from a corrupted Republic of Cali to seek asylum in the U.S. across the Nevada border.
The first part of this story was VERY hard for me to read. It made me MAD! It was so ridiculously awful of an example of injustice for the main character that it is almost unbelievable… almost. That’s the problem… I could also see it actually happening in 2019, and that both scares and pisses me off to no end. So, I skimmed the parts where the system was used to crush the MC, then picked back up for the inevitable flight. The story is great, but if you are like me, you WILL have a few blood-pressure issues while reading. Be warned, but read it anyway!
Roll, Colorado, Roll! by Alma Boykin (3 stars)
Water management of the Colorado River basin is a delicate thing. It is even more delicate when maintenance fails and unreasonable demands are made by those who don’t even realize they are screwed if it fails.
I learned a bit about the precarious water situation of California by reading this. It is a weak spot in the national infrastructure if it is completely accurate… which I don’t doubt. A good story, if a bit technical.
Final Flight by B. Opperman (3 stars)
A prepper and his son gather their last few belongings as they prepare to leave Cali for the last time. Unfortunately, they waited bit too late and the State Councilor for wealth redistribution shows up before they can leave. He has to delay them until his son can get home from a neighbor’s house cross-country. He only hopes he can do it without killing anyone.
This is an excellent tale for both its lone-wolf prepper defense and the cause and consequence of how Cali got to where it is at this point in the scenario. I enjoyed it, even though the ‘telling’ is heavy, and the explanation of the MC’s son’s adventure is rushed and sounds a bit redundant. Multiple viewpoints and overlapping scenes could have eliminated the redundancy feel. Also, the amount of time it took for the convoy of state people to get up the driveway, even with delays, seemed off for its length. So, only 3 stars as a result.
Freedom’s Ride by LB Johnson (1 star)
A woman in a cabin daydreams about hunting… then I got bored and annoyed and quit reading it.
This one is written with a very strange style. It doesn’t set a very good stage for the ‘now’ of the story before it starts flashing back. Several thousand words are written in ITALICS. It is very verbose and reflective. I’m sure it’s fine if that’s what you are in the mood for, but I was looking for action, drama & thrills, so I quite disliked the whole thing. I started skimming after the first ten pages of italics, then skipped to the next story. I don’t usually do that, but I had to here. I give it a single star (instead of zero) because the prose (yes, it reads like prose) was written well. This is a clear case of the author’s stylistic choices overshadowing the plot.
The Farm by Eaton Rapids Joe (5 stars)
Beauracracy, self-agrandizement & ego drive a power hungry Board of Education examiner to attempt to destroy the farm of the only couple who are actually managing to produce food for a region on the brink of starvation.
This story is great. It’s one of those where the good guys outsmart the bad guys because the bad guys are dumb-asses. Well written with great characters, plot and feel.
By Hook and Crook by Lawdog (2 stars)
In the new Cali, a new breed of Coyote emerges to serve the needs of the new refugee class fleeing the state.
Short and sweet, this story is about a man who uses his special talents to help extract a family from failed state.
Fifth Column by Kimball O’Hara (3 stars)
An undercover counterinsurgent helps to orchestrate the fall and overthrow of the depraved failed state that Cali has become.
This one is a very realistic and harsh take on the steps needed to recover the state of California from its socialist catastrophe. Well written and believable. The plot and MC are great as well. There’s not much action, but lots of intrigue.
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Peacekeeper Incorporated’s breakthrough nanotechnology could bring repeat offense crime to an end, freeing society from the need for criminal incarcerations. But first, they have to finish testing it. With funding on the line, and time to prove out the project getting short, the lead scientist must find a way speed things up. That’s unfortunate for his guinea pig, and anyone who would stand in his way.
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Matter conversion technology—Matt-Con—has broadened the scope of mankind’s existence. It has opened up the real possibility of viable colonies on other planets in our solar system, and even space itself. Anywhere matter can be captured or energy from the sun can be felt, the possibility of expanding human habitation exists.
In this volume:
The space station Chariot of Helios—on its way to Mercury to become a power collection station for Earth’s growing need for energy to power matt-con tech—encounters a strange anomaly that threatens ship and crew.
The sudden destruction of mankind’s first atmospheric terraforming platform leaves three unlucky exonauts struggling to survive in the skies of Venus aboard a cobbled-together airship. Meanwhile, the commander of the space station above battles obstacles that might keep her from rescuing her stranded husband and crew in time.