Thursday, December 12, 2013
Into The Silent World---A book review
Early in 2012 while looking for books on Amazon I was lucky enough to stumbled upon Sam Winston's “What Came After.” In that novel the author paints a picture of a horrific future where the United States has not just fallen to third world status or outright collapsed like the numerous doomsayers these days constantly predict but has suffered a far worse but strangely plausible fate. In so many words the proud American Republic was not so carefully disassembled by a cabal of bean counting investment bankers, corporate CEO's, and the soulless sycophant politicians they own. It wasn't just the federal government that was discarded when the cost benefit analyst boys and girls decided it was of no further use but the state governments as well.
What replaced them was a kind of cooperative corporate feudalism with huge businesses craving out profitable niches of the now former United States. In this anarcho-capitalist wet dream those unlucky enough not to be part of the “ownership” of “management” classes end up as workers with few, if any, rights desperate not to fall into the world of the main character, Henry Weller.
Henry Weller is an extremely poor man born in one of the “Empowerment Zones” that makes up a large part of the New England region. In these zones a person works for one of the huge corporations doing non-skilled, back-breaking manual labor. But in a nicely crafted catch-22 what little pay the workers receive is in corporate scrip with people forced to buy what goods there are from a store owned by that same corporation. Adding insult to injury decades of industrial pollution and the widespread growing of genetically modified plants has created a contaminated and sterile environment where strange and deadly diseases have wiped out a huge portion of the population.
Life is short and brutal in these Empowerment Zones with no real options or possibilities of advancement for those born into them. Henry Weller though is a talented, self-taught mechanic who has literally built himself a workshop out of the refuse and other discarded items from our now dead civilization. In the first novel Henry has a brief and very chance encounter with the man who runs the mega-bank corporation. After Henry helps Mr. Banker, he leaves him with a vague and honestly purely meaningless promise that he would return the favor.
After some serious soul searching Henry grabs his young daughter, who is going blind, and sets out across a desolate and unforgiven nightmare of a landscape hoping Mr Banker might be able to save his daughter's sight. At the end of Henry's long and eventful journey a deal is reached between the two but the result upends Mr. Banker's comfortable existence and sends Henry and his family on another desperate trek looking for some form of sanctuary.
The second book in the series, “Into the Silent World”, takes off right where the first one ended with the corporate military arm of this neo-feudalistic America massacring the inhabitants of Henry's home town in an attempt to find him. In this novel Mr. Winston fills in some of the missing pieces of how things so thoroughly fell apart and explains how it was to the advantage to those who only concern is profit. Several new and important characters are introduced while some from the first book are developed further expanding the setting of this horrific world.
While in some ways “Into the Silent World” is more subtle than similar dystopic novels by McCarthy or even Orwell, to me it was even more chilling because you can see the seeds of just such a future taking shape if you listen to many of the politicians and business types these days. They speak of some sort of privileged business class and writhe in pain at the merest mention that this emerging capitalistic nobility might have to shoulder some of the burdens associated with belonging to a healthy and honorable nation that looks to uplift all Americans, not just those born to affluence.
Both “What Came After” and “Into The Silent World” are scary glimpses at the type of world we might inherit when profit takes the place of basic human compassion. I highly recommend both and dare anyone to honestly say they are nothing less than literary achievements.