Monday, August 19, 2013

Convergence: A Review

Paul Boerger's Convergence (Amazon, Amazon UK) is an apocalyptic novel setup as a dual time line: a retrospective from 200 years in the future, and the immediately apocalyptic events occurring a few years from now in 2020.  As the title implies, there is a laundry list of problems occurring simultaneously: listing in reverse order of prominence, water scarcity, war, changing weather patterns due to CO2 emissions, peak oil, pandemic disease, and global over population.

According to the back of the book bio,  Paul Boerger is an awarding winning journalist living in Mount Shasta, California with his wife and two children. If you dig a little further, you will find he spent 25 years working with juvenile delinquents and is the author of Your Teenager is Insane, The Care and Raising of the Teenage Boy. He enjoys skiing, kayaking and photography.

The novel covers a lot of topical interests within the sustainable movement, and unlike the many Cassandras warning of doom, does get to the root cause of most of our problems: global over population.   But the reporting is as they say, a mile-wide and an inch deep. Based on the summary of an earlier work of his, this appears to be the norm for him.  And since this novel is coming from the flip-side of the right-dominated survivalist/prepper side of the gloom and doom equation, it has its "left-side" politically correct blinkers on in full.

The author makes the huge mistake of jumping across a number of "expert" points of view, without actually showing that he has any real in depth knowledge as to the inner workings of their profession.  He has modern military forces "losing" in ways that they tend not to loose (firepower), he does not seem to be aware that there is already set up a large Federal and military infrastructure within the United States, with Acronyms and everything, to deal with in-country disasters, plagues, etc.  Our very first post, almost two years ago, was about NORCOM.  It's not that these efforts would necessarily succeed, but the President and his Chief of Staff don't even mention them.  Playing left-side intermural politics, since he is a "population-doom" guy, he has the eco friendly, hot-air, folks look completely ineffectual, and somewhat beside the point.

On the PC front, since he wants to have a positive military role player, they have to be in a wheel chair.  The one Christian, just sits around and wails, and prays, rather than doing the other thing that Christians are sometimes known for: community based action to help the needy.  The survivalist is a guns and beans guy, who is conveniently found to be useless as the plague kills everyone.  He goes at length to go into how our economic distribution of wealth is part of the problem, without fully discussing how he is going to remove a few billion people from poverty without further exacerbating peak oil, global warming, and food/water issues.  Of course, you could make everyone poor as a way of rebalancing (and we seem to be working toward that), but then there is no explanation as to how the poor of Darfur are going to set up the alternate energy sources they need once you somehow get rid of the big oil, nuclear energy interests he notes- yes, he actually has the slowly waning nuclear energy folks being part of the global warming problem.

When the author does get to the main issue, which is over population, he beats with such a heavy handed stick, as to make his points completely ineffectual.  At the same time he makes arguments for wealth re-distribution, he gets involved in forced sterilization and withholding prenatal care.  Who does he think would be hit hardest by these programs.  He is trying to have it both ways.  He wants to stay friends with his touchy feely friends, and yet take draconian population methods.  Is he even aware that without immigration the United States would have a negative birth rate?  Is he against immigration?

I was disappointed.  I have read plenty of rightward leaning (militia-economic collapse being the prototype), but the left-sided polemics are bit rarer, particularly such heavy handed polemics.  The left leaning authors tend toward illusions/delusions of literary merit.  So to have such a thin story, with such a poorly thought catastrophe scenarios, was disappointing.  You don't get any of the gun-play of the militia style novels, but you don't get much of a story.  A magical disease kills all (99.9%).  There has never been a disease that was that consistently deadly.  Even the Native Americans, who are often said to have lost 90% of their population to disease, suffered from numerous waves of very different diseases over centuries to get there, and there was a few additional issues (mass enslavement for one) that often helped them along the way.  I have to come out on the strongly negative side.
We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high. Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting. Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation. Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Well there aren't any elves.  But the author seems to be devoid of any concern for coherent story line.  Much of what goes on doesn't even make a whole lot of sense.  You have a poor African lady who actually manages to hitch a transatlantic ride on a oil tanker, only to let her self off on the shores of a Mexican jungle: where she is accepted by a deep jungle remnant group because she can bang rocks together to make fire.  Seriously, did they run out of matches that quickly?  Maybe its just me, but I just don't see country folk (or jungle folk) being all that impressed by that trick.  The survivalist, guns and beans, guy is a buffoon, as is crying-praying wife. But given the magical deadliness of the disease, its not clear what option the author is proposing as a wise one.  Given all the discussions of overpopulation, the author implies that the wisest course would have been for someone to intentionally create the disease, rather than the accident it was.  I'll add two points as it  is set in the modern world, and it involves normal people: a 3.
Readability is a little easier.  There is enough ranting polemics to insure that it is not a page turner.  But by bouncing around between enough people, you do keep from getting too stuck with any one persons activities.   Not counting the educational epilogue, it is only 142 pages.  Oh oh! Educational epilogue! There is one of those.  If you don't count the dated bibliography to the epilogue (I don't know if I have ever seen a bibliography that only covered an epilogue before), there is 20 more pages there.  So a penalty point for killing precious trees (aka: padding) with materials that can easily be found on the internet.  It is a 4.


James M Dakin said...

This is why we love ya, man. Save folks money by wasting your own. I can't believe the tree hugger doesn't offer Kindle.

russell1200 said...

James: LOL- Somewhere in all this I gain a greater understanding of the universe.

But other then that yes.

And I don't get it. You would think it only takes just a little tweak to turn the a well written down-and-out left leaning novel into a pretty decent slow collapse story. But they screw it up far more often than they succeed.

Granted the other side of the isle is spewing out its own share of garbage, but I don't think they have as many clear cut prototypes to follow.