Saturday, August 6, 2011

Far North: A Review

Marcel Theroux’s Far North is an unusual post apocalyptic novel for both its setting, and its characters.  The characters have some of the quirkiness of Steven Amsterdam's Things We Didn't See Coming but are far more likable.  In fact, the books “good guys” are probably about as likable as you are going to find in a book that involves this much hardship, death and destruction.

Far North was a 2009 National Book Award Finalist.  A clip of the author reading from the book can be found here. It gives away one of the more interesting little scenes, but is worth it to hear the author read.

If you hear the clip, you have probably guessed that he is British.  What you have also probably guessed is that, unusually for British written post apocalyptic fiction, it is not set in Great Britain.  In fact, Great Britain does not even factor into the story.  The story is set in Russia, and the protagonist is American.  And that is all I can say.  This novel has an awful lot of surprises.

Apparently he became interested in collapse scenarios apparently when he was asked to present The End of the World as We Know It portion of the War on Terra television series.  He was selected because he knew nothing about global warming issues.  Obviously he became interested.   Global warming does figure into the "end-scenario".  However, given the location of the setting, you would hard pressed to know it at times.

The story features stronger female roles then most within the genre, particularly given the levels of physical confrontation.  The women are not La Femme Nikita, but they are not to be taken lightly either.

Although the novel is not a “how to” disguised as fiction – it is not a Patriots hiding a mini-midwifing manual in the middle – it does very much get down to the brass tacks of survival attitude.

Every time I used a bullet, I made myself  five more immediately.  That had been my rule for a while.  My bullets worked out pretty expensive, both in terms of time and the fuel it took to smelt them.  It wan’t really economical to make them in such small quantities.

But what I figured was this: you can always find more fuel if you run out, chop out some hardwood and make charcoal- even burn the pianola, god help me, if you have to-but you must never let things slide, get casual, and run low on shells.

If you can find someone who’ll trade with you, sure enough, a bullet has a market price.  But say someone picks a fight with you, hunts you down with a posse of his friends.  What price a bullet then?  What price not to hear your gun go click on an empty chamber?

The details of the hand loading are a little unclear, but the attitude is not.
The story is at times a little too over the top, but it gets there at a slow pace, so you do have time to adjust.  As I mentioned at the top, the heroes, when they are found, are a likable bunch.  You can root for them without embarrassment.

Marcel Theroux

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