Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Distant Eden: A Review

Lloyd Tackitt's A Distant Eden is an apocalyptic prepper-survivalist novel set in the general area of San Antonio, Texas.  The apocalypse in this case happens to be set off by an enormous solar storm that destroys various electronic devises, and the electrical grid.

Lloyd Tackitt is a retired construction project manager who blogs at a Texas fishing site, and on his own personal blog.  A Distant Eden is his first novel.

Shoot out with State Trooper within minutes of the event.
Important to be the right type of survivalist
roman is 60 jerry is 45
Son Adrian is a super soldier who has reaction speeds 6x normal.

The book forthrightly states that it is as much a primer on survivalism as it is a novel.  It notes numerous information dumps are included and the author makes a point of not having active characters with the normal range of psychological flaws.  His idea of a lack of psychological flaws appears to include the ability to murder anyone who is not both a Christian and a holder of useful skills.  There is not only a U.S. forces special forces team at their beck and call, but the leader has a reaction time six times faster than normal.

One problem with using a novel as a prepper's handbook is that if you don't pick a good starting point for your disaster, a lot of your advice is going to be applicable to only a narrow range of situations.  Although the solar flare portion of the EMP scenario is reasonable, only one known massive solar flair has been recorded.  Maybe not the best choice for a general primer.  It is a little like basing your survival advice around a zombie-plague.  It works to some degree as a stand in for other disasters, but the specifics of the event intrude on the reality of the story. 

It is also a rather trigger happy book, to be a basis for survival for normal people. The event gets started so fast that within minutes of the start of the flare, one of the main characters is shooting a highway patrol officer minutes into the story, and only hours later  "hunters" are setting up road blockades to steal peoples cars.

There is far too much gunfire for the untrained family members to survive, and even the trained (six-speed) warriors get a little silly using spears and sidearms in one fight.  Apparently the author is not aware that a fair number of bikers and gang members have military experience.

The original idea behind the fast collapse novel genre was propelled forward by the fear of nuclear war and the flight to the wilderness.  The author states that is a known fact that people in disasters flee to the countryside.  I am unaware of any evidence of this propensity where there is not some underlying factor: a pandemic plague in town for instance.  Wars can cause refugees, but that is a general flight away from a perceived hostile force, and it is not clear that city types run any faster than those in the countryside.
And after we get all this how to survive advise, we finally get to the culminating action where the groups finds out that a very well provisioned group is living nearby.  The bad guus have numbers, better weapons, a top to bottom better level of training (they're mercenaries), and are well fortified.  So what does our survival adviser advise?   Attack!  And not only attack, but have part of the intricate plan involve a personal combat challenge to the leader of this evil pack!  This is survival advise?

Mind you, the group doesn't just kill the obvious bad guys.  Anyone they don't think is a good person (explicitly stated as a Christian), with useful skills, is fair game for execution if they are inconvenient to the "good guys." At one point they execute the wife and child of a poacher, because they just can't feed them. Latter on, on the same property, they don't shot an actual poacher, because they sort of now him, think he's a good guy, and he has useful skills.  All of this while explicitly debating the Christian merits of  case...stunning.

Did I like the book?  There are a few interesting scenes, and some of the advise is reasonable.  But the author is so full of himself, it becomes nausea inducing.  His long polemics aren't only on specific survival advise, but also on the future coarse of the post-collapse world.  Most of this seems pretty much cribbed from like-minded fellow travelers at various survival-type websites and blogs.  The author notes that he is a practical person; which apparently includes having few creative ideas of his own.  Why use new ideas, if you can use the same old ones?  Very practical indeed.

If the author had stuck to portraying an action adventure series, with the combat heroes with reflexes six-times faster than normal, and professional wrestler bad guys, it might have had some merit as pulp fiction.  But as a moralizing guide to survival it can only be a disaster.  Unless you are an actual Navy SEAL, using the characters actions as a basis of survival would be a disaster, and I think even a Navy SEAL would have a hard time surviving some of the silliness.  If you didn't get yourself killed by the third time you attacked a well armed group of bad guys, the good guys would string you up for murdering women and children in cold blood.
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.
Realism is interesting.  There is a lot of discussion, in a breezy sort of way, of various survival techniques.  There is not a lot of actual thought through about how all if it would work within the context of the scenario.  Roman, the main hero, is 60 years old and seems to have no problem evacuating his household and burying large caches of supplies in the Texas heat.  They use all sorts of very obvious water collection methods when they are supposed to be hiding out in their crawl space.  When a dozen extra people show up with his son (all well trained "nice" people of course), Roman doesn't even blink at the supply ramifications.  It is all faux realism.  So what do we call unreal, realism?  I am calling it a 4.
Readability is a little straightforward.  A medium paced action story interspersed with canned prepper advise, and survivalist rants at their worst.  It is a 5.


Stephen said...

Again you have saved me money on this silly super speed novel. Thanks.

James M Dakin said...

I'm sorry, but I loved this one. I think a lot of what makes or breaks a book for me is story-telling. If the facts are right but the style is terrible, I don't like it. If the style is enjoyable I'll allow a lot of silliness to pass. Six times combat speed is of course stupid, but somehow it just seemed to work in the larger context. It wasn't really bad like a super ninja with his own mountain top underground concrete lair like a certain series from the 80's. In this genre, there is so much crap that a book with the least crap is a winner. I don't disagree with your critisisms, it was just much less offensive to me on a relitive basis. Are there much better ones out there? Of course. But there ain't that many Lucifers Hammers out there either.

russell1200 said...

Stephen: Thanks.

James: We are going to have to take away your bolt action badge of prepping honor if you keep this up. It flew under your radar screen because he threw in enough cripped prepper advice. It was both unrealistic AND evil.

James M Dakin said...

I reply in todays article. Mostly I agree with you but still try to give the author some wiggle room. What can I say?

Spud said...

I agree with the man from Helko.
The book was a decent enough read to make it worthwhile. I've found from reading this genra and also intermixing with many in the "prepper" world that this Christian or die attitude to be very prevelant.
If I gotta be one o them Jebus or the highway types. Then I do believe I'll just go ahead and hit the highway and be one of the "quote" bad guys....

russell1200 said...

James- LOL, isn't your motto something like last one in the stewpot wins?

Spud: Being a "bad guy" is an option. But if you go into like this author describes, you wouldn't last long. If you want a much better book from a bad guys perspective, John S. Wilson's book "Traveler" is by far the better book. Remember, this book bills itself as advise, not light entertainment.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the Christian or die attitude. It reminds me off how in construction you get the people that like to have fish in their business logo. Most folks, after dealing with times, don't trust them at all. The metaphysical-us against them really seems to warp some people.