So this showed up in my mailbox a couple weeks ago:
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047
Short version: Worth the read.
Post-apocalyptic fiction is a tough nut to crack. You either go with guns and cannibals, like pretty much everything written since ‘Lucifers Hammer’ or you try to give a less ‘action movie’ apocalypse and deal more with day to day stuff like ‘Alas Babylon’. Some fiction tries to promote an agenda or belief, some just wants a body count. But regardless of the style of apocalypse, if it isn’t well-written no amount of gun-battles and zombies is going to make you want to make it to the final chapter.
“The Mandibles” goes for the ‘economic collapse’ flavor of apocalypse. The US defaults on it’s debts, becomes an economic pariah, and tries to inflate it’s way outta things. In the midst of this are several generations of the Mandible family who were counting on their family wealth but instead watch it vanish. The story covers several members who represent various mindsets and lifestyles…the practical, the pessimistic, the naive, the possibly sociopathic, the intelligentsia, and others.
What I found that made the story compelling was the fairly realistic, as I see it, representation of how daily life changes as the economy disintegrates. Our characters lose jobs, face empty supermarkets, inflated prices, evictions, robberies, medical emergencies, and eventually totalitarian government, all through the course of the book.
Although I disliked the last couple chapters of the book, which seemed to turn a gritty somewhat-reality-based economic collapse into a L. Neil Smith libertarian fantasy, I really enjoyed the book in general. I’ve always said that the hallmark of good fiction is if it makes you think about things in ways that you might not have otherwise. In this case, after reading though the book in one sitting, I found myself inventorying my precious metals stash and resolving to make some future purchases. Yes, I’m that susceptible to things I read.
Gunplay? Virtually none. Cannibal army? None. But was it compelling reading? Absolutely. Only one character in the book seemed to have any grasp of the severity of the situation and the implications for the future. I found myself eagerly waiting for the parts where he would respond to the situations without the normalcy bias everyone else seemed to have.
My impression: good book, enjoyable read, not for the person who wants all-action-all-the-time, but definitely good for someone who wants to imagine a ‘wargame’ of riding out the dollars collapse in a big city.