One Year After
I read the first book in this series during the Cannonball two years ago, so I went back to read my review before writing this one. Sadly, it seems that in the years that have passed between these novels, Mr. Forstchen has gotten more hyper-militaristic in his writing and a bit more willing to express a few bigoted viewpoints as well. And he continues to either relegate women to periphery roles, or, when granting higher-profile roles (the President is apparently a woman, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services – because of course, that’s the only cabinet-level position a woman would hold, right?), making them incompetent. Mr. Fortschen is all about guns, guys, and glory, and it’s obnoxious as hell.
A refresher: two years ago some EMPs were detonated in the US and other parts of the world, rending all electronics inoperable. Towns were cut off, people had to fend for themselves. The federal government was nowhere to be seen, and lead military vet John Matherson saved the day, but lost his daughter to lack of insulin. Pretty good, but also pretty militaristic.
Hoo boy, if Mr. Fortschen didn’t crank that up to 11 for this book. The thing is, so much potential lies in this story. And at times, I get a glimpse into what an awesome book he could have written. There are really interesting discussions about treating the wounded of the ‘enemy’ and of the morality of certain actions during war. But it all gets lost in some of the more absurd comments.
I recognize that authors can create characters that include complexities, but I also don’t think Mr. Fostchen is talented enough to infuse his main character with those complexities and not have them reflect the author’s true views. John finds the racism of his Civil War-loving buddies endearing, and scoffs at sexism while characterizing it as “basic politeness.” Ew. At one point, he gets really indignant about the federal government referring to people like HIM (a white dude) as terrorists, and waxes nostalgic about how this is just the outcome of the “political correctness” that kept the US from calling “real” terrorists (read: Muslims) terrorists after 9/11. Double ew.
But the real topper on this shit cake of ‘patriotism’ is when John complains about how much things have changed, and how much better the US was at being moral during war, especially during the Iraq and Afghanistan fights. If I’d been drinking, I’d have done a spit take. Perhaps the fact that the US just bombed an MSF hospital last week is coloring my vision, but this idea that the US is some moral arbiter when it comes to war and the military is just absurd, and I can’t stomach it even in a novel.
If there’s a third book, I won’t be reading it. And I’m guessing the author would be fine with it, because I’m pretty sure he’s not a fan of my kind (a woman, a pacifist, someone who isn’t a blind lover of all things USA).