A Novel of Survival
As a reader of a few post-apocalyptic novels, I'd have to say this is one of the best and worst I've read. I couldn't put it down and couldn't stand reading it all at the same time.--- Review on "goodreads."The survivalist central creed is It's me against the world. Probably the first novel of this genre would be Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, or (as the author titled it), The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pyrates .
The title is typical of the genre, which demands that the author offer non-stop detail about surviving, how to live off the land. The reader gets to participate as Crusoe teaches himself to be a potter, learns how to raise goats, finds and instructs his man Friday on the finer points of the Bible. And survival.
Morgan Carter, the hero of Going Home, is what they now call a "prepper" ... one who's prepared for Doomsday. But Carter's island is a little bigger than Crusoe's, being most of the state of Florida.
Going Home tells of the time when all the machinery of modern society gets shut down. No electricity, no telephone, no internet. Cars no longer work ... except those very old ones that don't depend on electronics. We join Morgan on the ultimate on-the-road journey as the whole infrastructure of our society falls apart. And he has to get home.
What caused the breakdown? According to the author, the troubles grow out of the Middle East, which become an excuse for other powers to move in:
The balloon went up all over the world. The rag heads in the Middle East took the chance to go at the Israelis. They naturally unleashed nukes on 'em all; then Iran tossed one back, but of course, they don't have any. Then China went after Taiwan ... Russia turned some birds loose too.
But, and this is where it gets thick: America hasn't "been hit with anything." A man named Sarge explains all this to Morgan as they meet somewhere mid-state after dodging bullet and government helicopters and angry hippies and sex perverts and those who are trying to take advantage of the rest of us in the midst of all this chaos.
"We obviously gave someone some assurances that the US would not interfere," says Sarge. "And then this happened to us here. So that's why I said I don't think this was an accident." The front line soldiers for the New Oppression are FEMA and DHS --- The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. "Since the implementation of martial law, the DHS secretary was now the de facto ruler of the United States of America," Sarge explains.
The preppers we meet in Going Home are Morgan, and Thad --- a black ex-postal worker --- and Sarge who, with his crew, have decided that they are going to have to go to war "with the government." Morgan questions this, but Sarge tells us,
Yes, I do think this is what it's coming to. Can we take on the military alone? No, but we aren't going to be alone. The rank and file are not all going to fall in line with this ... The NCOs, who really run the military, are not going to go for this, especially since the armed forces are now under the control of the DHS --- and martial law has been declared.
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There are parts of Going Home that can be a pain. The male joshing around is like having to hang out in the high-school locker room just after the last game of the season. (One of their favorite parting lines is "If I see you again, I'll kill you.")
These are not the only bores. Morgan runs into a bunch of "Rainbow hippies" who smoke dope throughout the new crises but also have the smarts to bring along several guns. (Morgan makes his peace with them by offering them a baggie of his own).
San Francisco comes up: it survives the new turmoil but "Water was their biggest problem; that and the junkies."
Water could be dealt with, but drug addicts were accustomed to a city that handed out free needles and acted as a codependent spouse; the city was no longer supporting them.
"With no way to transport the drugs into the city, fighting soon broke out for what was left. When the drug wars started, others joined in for their own reasons, fighting over food, fuel, and then water."
The messages here is very clear: when the going gets tough the tough get their guns and their prep kits and take off. Sarge explains it: "There are two kinds of people in this country. Those that think for themselves, take care of themselves, and know they have to work for what they want in the world." The others?
As long as those in control provide for their needs even if they aren't to the level they want but are just enough to satisfy them, then they will paint their ass white, put their heads down, and graze with the rest of the antelope.
§ § §
Having said all that, I have to confess here that not only was Going Home a page-turner, I found myself making excuses to pick it up when I should have been tending my own antelopes. I'd wake up at three a.m. with the usual night monsters and pick up Going Home and devour it just to make my nights even more creepy.
Morgan's 250 mile journey from Tallahassee to Ocala to rejoin his wife and three daughters is very slow. It has to be. Mostly it is a matter of self-protection. Neither he nor anyone else can walk the empty highways or even the local roads. He has too many creepy experiences with people who want his backpack, or to take him down when he is sleeping, or shoot him dead for the hell of it. Along with this built-in paranoia, the general terror forces him to stay away from the now-dying cities, towns, and, as well, all open spaces. Helicopters are beginning to track him, so he finds it best to move through woody areas, and, best, at night.
He does meet up with good-hearted Thad, the ex-postal worker --- a big, protective bruiser, one that you and I might choose to travel with in similar circumstances. If we were preppies.
Morgan also takes up a woman named Tess who becomes the other traveling companion. She tempts him, she's young and beautiful, but he's loyal to his wife back there in the home fort. (Her name is Mel --- yes, Mel --- and Morgan loyally resists Tess's charms as befits a good prepper.)
When Tess and Thad and Morgan get in a pitched battle with the bad guys just outside St. Petersburg --- creeps who want to take take their food or take them out --- Tess picks up her Taurus and manages to shoot Morgan right in the noggin. Those dratted women! Fortunately they happen onto a government hospital which just happens to have an emergency noggin operating staff on the ready to glue Morgan back together again. He's left with a few stitches and a headache and a strong desire to keep all weapons out of the hands of the ladies. Except faithful, crack-shot Mel.Besides a compelling plot and an obsessively paranoiac view of the world, as you wander with Morgan in the piney backwoods of central Florida you'll have to put up with opportunistic creeps and a non-stop list of guns, pistols, rifles and knives along with survivalist machinery packed into Morgan's circus clown-car backpack, complete with its purification gear, first-aid kits, headlamps, see-in-the-dark lenses, tiny stoves (Esbits), a "Glo-Toob" lithium light, and two-liter "Platypus bags" which are not for watering platypuses but people. There are also fold-out doo-dads that can be used to float across swampy rivers.
It does get a little heavy in there, if just because of the mechanical detail:
As my EDC, it had a number of things in it that I would need. There were two spare mags for the XD, an Otis tactical cleaning kit, a Silva compass, a Wilderness Outfitters SOS survival kit, a Swedish FireSteel, and other assorted items.
Sometimes all these EDCs and SOSs and Glo-toobs get to be so onerous that we begin to understand why the hooligans on the road would want to steal it from him ... if just for for food, toys, and two or three weeks of guaranteed survival, a veritable world of snacks and fancy-dan equipment.
Alas, we didn't know, until we got to the very end of Going Home, that there's a Glossary at the back. It's jam-packed with footnotes that would have made our journey across the tick-ridden piney slopes and fetid swamps of central Florida a lot more bearable. There we would have discovered that the GLP-L4 radio is "a ten-band radio," IWB is a holster "in the waistband," and that the "Platypus water bladder" is a "BPA-free collapsible water bottle."
The Glossary seems at times to be a commercial for prepper survival stores, things you'll need tomorrow in case they stage a CME --- a coronal mass ejection --- or EMP, an Electromagnetic "pulse wave emitted by the detonation of a nuclear device." I'm thinking that the manufacturers at Eagles Nest Outfitters, Leatherman, Maxpedition and U-Dig-It should be setting aside book shelves near the entrance to their stores for Going Home since it advertises their wares, in text and in glossary, at such length, and, presumably, for free.
The copyright notices tells us that "A. American" is short for "Angry American." It would be interesting to find out who "Angry American" is. He is, mysteriously, nowhere to be found on Google. Could this be perhaps a case of underhanded sabotage ... courtesy of the DHS?
Or is it just for security purposes? These Doomsday folk --- and, more and more, it seems, other Americans, want to travel well under the radar. One way to do it is to live --- not for god's sakes in San Francisco or Los Angeles or New York --- but in obscure off-beat places like Southwest Florida or at the edge of a National Forest, as far away as possible from the police, the military, the government, certainly far from the Home of the Beasts, Washington, D.C.
This book opens a small door to how survivalists live and think, and I suspect that the reason it is so gripping is because of the paranoia ... melded with a powerful underlying theme: that the day will come when you and I will be on our own, completely in charge of the survival of our family and ourselves. I'll have to trust me and only me to do everything. Most of all, to watch over my shoulder in case you decide to come for me.
There are presumably thousands of preppers out there, just like A. American ... living there in the shadows, waiting for the day when their food and guns and equipment-rich shelters and backpacks and fellow preppers can get together. To survive.
Even if it means taking on the feds.--- Lolita Lark