Monday, August 18, 2008

This Rome Shall Not Fall!

Damn you, John Ringo! You did it to us again! You created another unique, totally believable character with a presence so strong that even you described writing the book as taking dictation. The Last Centurion is definitely going on my recommended reading list. It's really a good book, but very unique in plot and structure.

Call it the blog from the future.

Bandit Six (or Bandit) is an army officer who decides to write his memoirs in a sort-of blog format. There’s no direct dialogue in this novel, only compressed and rendered in its gist. There’s little to no setting description, character description, or really much description of any kind. It’s a story, told simply by the man who lived it and led his soldiers through it. Told complete with “wife edits” whenever the character’s wife has something in particular to add. Usually explaining something the narrator leaves out (either through modesty, which doesn’t seem likely, or through Bandit Six not thinking what he’s left out is important), but sometimes commenting on an event or something in the narrative (“Wife edit: So that’s where that Ming vase came from!”).

The story itself is one that I think fits Ringo in with Heinlein as a visionary. Many of the things that happen in this book—from natural disasters to human caused—could easily happen.

First among the natural disasters, we have a mutated, human-to-human transmissible bird flu creating a pandemic. Starts (where else) in China. Spreads extremely quickly. Has a very high fatality rate, but not in the typical demographics that usually die from the flu. Bandit Six describes India as losing population equal to the entire pre-pandemic population of the United States among its very rich and very poor alone. Worldwide, he estimates something between a one-third and two-thirds fatality rate, depending on region, medical treatment available, and cultural causes that have more to do with responses to the disease than the disease itself.

Second, we have global climate shift (cooling). We have, at one point in the novel, snow falling in the deserts in Iran and Iraq. Imagine what that does in the United States.

Now, on to the man-made disasters: first, we have a liberal president FUBARing an emergency response plan with requiring the vaccines to fight the pandemic only go to socialized medicine centers (a.k.a., county health departments). Many counties follow orders to the letter, and next to nobody gets the vaccine. Lots of people die. Others, like (surprisingly) New York City, distribute vaccines to all hospitals, and get all city/county employees involved in giving vaccines. People still die, but not nearly as many.

Second, we have said president nationalizing companies that collapse because of a 30-60% fatality rate from the flu (depending on the area). Many of the companies are starting to re-organize, and raise their prices according to the cost of doing business. Many aren’t able to afford goods. So, said liberal president nationalizes businesses that a) have lost their owners/ board of directors/etc., to the pandemic, or b) the president thinks that the company is trying to “price gouge” the survivors.

Then, we have said president “nationalize” farms, to make sure that there would be enough food. Some of the farms, yes, lost their owners to the pandemic, but some were selling for what the market would pay—price gouging. Said president handed the farms over to people who’d never farmed, and were “specialists” in organic farming, a method which wouldn’t feed even the reduced population.

This is all related by Bandit Six, who also relates his own unit’s version of Xenophon’s 10,000’s march home from Persia. His small unit is left in Iran, guarding a base that the rest of the larger base is rotated home to deal with the disasters in the United States. He helps stabilize the region by taking out the area bad guys with a booby-trapped ammo dump, and an all-afternoon and all-night battle, turns over the base and food to some of the refugees that live nearby, and march out of Iran, through Iraq, on their way to Turkey to be airlifted home.

The story, as I said, was very compelling, and felt real. Ringo deals with all sorts of issues, like epidemiology, global climate shift, capitalism vs. socialism, and what happens when the system breaks, either through gross incompetence of higher ups or social collapse from disaster.

Honestly, he strikes me as a visionary. Look up the topics I mention from the novel. Just Google them. You'll find them. You'll find professional journal articles beginning to be written about most of these topics, and suggesting the same things that Ringo's novel suggests as a possible future.

Update: Ringo's nuts! A visionary, but certifiably insane! Not only does Bandit Six have a website, but a myspace page!

1 comment:

  1. I'm not nuts. It's all Bandit's fault. I was just the ghost writer.
    :-)


    John

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