Books – 1632 & Island In The Sea Of Time

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I have a weak spot for survival fiction. Two of my absolute favorites in this genre are “Lucifer’s Hammer” and, of course, “Alas, Babylon”. Both books came out many years ago so it’s not often I find something that I wind up dog-earring as much as those two. (My copy of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ springs to mind but I suppose that is technically not a book about survival.)

One book, or series of books, that I find myself reading over and over again is “Island in the Sea of Time” – the first book (although it can stand alone quite well) in Stirling’s trilogy.

SM Stirling, in case you havent read his stuff, comes across as someone who must have been kind of a geek in high school and played a lot of D&D and watched a lot of science fiction. His books invariably construct some sort of circumstance where modern technology is limited or nullified and SCA-style geeks wind up being the new badasses.

Having said that, he does do a good job of creating engaging characters and telling a story well, although in Tom Clancy fashion he can wind up getting too caught up in describing technology or methods.

The premise for Island In The Sea Of Time is simple: the modern Island of Nantucket suddenly vanishes and re-appears several thousand years earlier…people, infrastructure, buildings, and all. The mechanism of this is left unexplained and the story then proceeds to how this society of people can continue to survive without the resources it is used to having. Throw in a few opportunists who want to use the opportunity to set themselves up as king of the savages, a few cultural stereotypes, and a large amount of re-invention of pre-industrial technology, and its a pretty compelling read.

If youre notion of the apocalypse includes a general global catastrophe where all you have is what can make or had socked away in your basement, you’ll probably appreciate this book. Once the .223 is gone, the gasoline used up, the batteries dead, and the radios silent, it’s all a matter of what can you make and how do you learn ow to make it.

What I like about it is the notion of intelligence, creativity, and adaptation being the fuel that keeps the fire of ‘civilization’ going. The characters have to adapt to their limited supplies of modern goods disappearing, learn to work their way up to black powder and steam technology, and make the most of the dwindling modern technology that theyll never be able to replace (computers, for example). Its an excellent book and if you have some time to kill I recommend it.

A similar, although not nearly as well written, story is 1632 by Eric Flint. Essentially the same premise with a different locale and era. A modern (or as modern as it gets, I suppose) West Virginia coal mining town is dropped into feudal Europe.

1632 In the year 1632 in northern Germany a reasonable person might conclude that things couldn’t get much worse. There was no food. Disease was rampant. For over a decade religious war had ravaged the land and the people. Catholic and Protestant armies marched and countermarched across the northern plains, laying waste the cities and slaughtering everywhere. In many rural areas population plummeted toward zero. Only the aristocrats remained relatively unscathed; for the peasants, death was a mercy.

2000 Things are going OK in Grantville, West Virginia. The mines are working, the buck are plentiful (it’s deer season) and everybody attending the wedding of Mike Stearn’s sister (including the entire membership of the local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America, which Mike leads) is having a good time.

THEN, EVERYTHING CHANGED….

When the dust settles, Mike leads a small group of armed miners to find out what’s going on. Out past the edge of town Grantville’s asphalt road is cut, as with a sword. On the other side, a scene out of Hell; a man nailed to a farmhouse door, his wife and daughter Iying screaming in muck at the center of a ring of attentive men in steel vests. Faced with this, Mike and his friends don’t have to ask who to shoot.

At that moment Freedom and Justice, American style, are introduced to the middle of The Thirty Years War.

More heavily focused on 17th century European politics and intrigues, its still an entertaining, although not very compelling, read. On the bright side, however, it is free.

Both of these really belong to the genre of ‘alternative history’, but I think they dovetail nicely into the category of survival fiction….much the way some zombie stuff is technically the ‘horror’ genre but also fits.

Of the two stories, I recommend Stirling’s if you don’t mind dropping a few bucks for a book. I find it a good enough read that I often just pick it up. open it to a random page, and start reading. The two books after it, by the way, are also very good and if you enjoy te first one I don’t think you’ll be at all disappointed with the ones that follow.

TWD – The Nagant soldiers on

I may owe an apology to travel-trailer survivalists and ‘survival on a budget’ advocates across the interwebs.

Why?

I actually saw someone use a Mosin-Nagant (an M44, actually) on ‘The Walking Dead’. True, they didn’t actually shoot it…but they calmly unfolded the bayonet and speared a zombie head like it was a cocktail olive. I guess when the end of the world breaks out and when everyone is totin’ a high-capicty, semi-auto boomstick there will still be a place for the man with a five-shot Soviet fencepost.

To be fair, though….we saw tons of AR’s, AKs, and even M1 carbines, AUGs,  and HK’s before the first $150 M-N ever showed up on the screen.

Trivia: what is the oldest service cartridge still in use today? The 7.62x54R…still used in Russian GPMG’s and some sniper guns. Over 100 years of service, beating out everything else.

The Walking Dead and the question everyone asks…

One thing that drives many people nuts about The Walking Dead is why do these people not have rallypoints and offsite caches? As it turns out, Norman Reedus addresses this:

With so many pockets of former prison people now at serious odds against the walkers/biters and the landscape, did Rick’s gang really never think of arranging a meeting place in case of catastrophe?

“We shudda, yeah. The idea was get to the bus and bolt on the bus, but I don’t think anybody expected a tank to roll in, you know what I mean?” Norman laughed.

A little but of insight. Appraently, on the show, the group’s focus was more on the zombie threat than the human threat.

Nonetheless, that is one of the biggest complaints preparedness-minded people have about the show.

Entertainment – Goodbye World

Hey, who doesn’t like a good end-of-the-world movie, right?

Of course, the emphasis is on ‘good’. This one, ‘Goodbye World’, seems to touch on the ohmigod-the-grid-is-down genre that seems to be the favorite scenario these days. It looks to have a touch of the Twilight Zones’ “The Shelter” in it for good measure too.

I’m gonna guess this if going to go into the theaters for about five minutes and then straight-to-streaming.

Another technology-will-be-our-undoing flick was this kinda over-the-top number:

I dont know if it even made it into theaters. In addition to the notion of technology being the weak spot, it throws in some Red Dawn-y invasion and quisling scenes.

And, of course, the one that started the genre – Lights Out :

And, yes, if you look closely you can recognize some faces from The Walking Dead in there. Most notably some folks that played residents of Woodbury and the Governor’s henchmen.

I applaud studios and independent filmmakers for taking chances with a genre that is notoriously tough to get viewers into. I cannot recall the last ‘good’ end of the world movie I saw. They are either murky symbolism-clad character treatments like “The Road” or ridiculous over-the-top special effects extravaganzas like “2012″. The first twenty minutes of ‘World War Z’ was pretty good, but otherwise I havent seen an end-of-the-world movie I’ve actually liked since…hmmm….the original Red Dawn, I think.

On the other hand, direct-to-video is full of entertaining, if not ‘good’, flicks on the subject. The Walking Dead is kinda sating my need for this genre at the moment, although I think that if ‘Jericho’ had been on cable instead of network TV it would have been what it should have been…grittier and more substantive than it was.

For now, I’ll have to stick to books since movies have been pretty bad in this genre.

TWD – Teenage angst

New season of The Walking Dead is here. I like that there’s finally a bit more focus on the scavenging and pressing need for supplies. While decapitating zombies has it’s attractions, it can get boring. Im far more interested in seeing how a pair of people with nothing but the clothes on their back are going to find necessary supplies and gear to keep them alive.

This latest episode was one of those episodes that throws in some character-driven subplot. I support character development, although many people just want wall-to-wall gunfights. If I don’t care about the characters then where is my concern over them surviving the episode?

This episode is teenage rebellious angst and “I hate you!” moments as Carl, the heir apparent to the title of ‘Most annoying Character Can We Kill Him Off Yet Please’ formerly held by Andrea, gets all moody and pissy because he blames his dad for the failures and deaths within the group. Fine, fine…the kid is, what, 13? He gets to run around with a suppressed Beretta and shoot whatever he likes…at 13 I couldnt even have a BB gun. Get over it, kid. And when he finally decides to ‘spread his wings’ and try his hand at being the Last Man On Earth he gets in over his head not once, but twice. The end of the world is no place to work out teenage rebellion issues.

Nice to see that wasting ammo has consequences, hey? The bad tactical and strategic decisions just keep piling on. Obviously, if people did things that were tactically and strategically sound this series would have ended after about three episodes. There has to be these stupid screwups so that we can have our characters in jeopardy and thereby get iewers. I understand that, but still….its the end of the world and you can be bothered to carry a spare mag? Or a knife? Or fasten the strap on your holster so your pistol doesn’t flop around? So far the only person who seemed to tactically have his poop in a group was Shane.

And we’re ignoring the obvious solution here to the Grimes boys’ problem: Morgan. Rick and Carl need to grab a car, head back to Mayberry, and see if Morgan is still alive. If so, while he might not be keen to help Rick for Rick’s sake I bet he’d help out for Carl’s sake. And if Morgan is dead(ish) then there’s still probably a large cache of gear and food there waiting.

And while Michonne’s backstory is interesting, it’s nothing revelatory. We knew she had a loss with a small kid, right? The backstory I wanna see is Daryl’s. Was it a life of trailer park living, redneck bar fights, backroad meth deals, and such or was it something completely different?

Either way, still hooked.

Followup – ‘Spartan Survival’ Gunkiddians

Original post here.

Local man on ‘Doomsday Preppers’ arrested on illegal firearms warrant

Smith is a felon from a first-degree theft conviction and also was convicted of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes in 2009. “His stated plan was not to defend himself but to use weapons he illegally possessed, to rob his neighbors at gunpoint,” Sheriff Paul Pastor said of the show. “Did he really think that this wouldn’t attract our attention ?

Just like the original Gunkid, this one seems to have cobbled together enough rope to hang himself. Guys, telling the world about your interest in preparedness on television is just plain dumb, but letting them film you with illegal firearms? Thats some Biden-quality bad judgement right there….