Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tribes: A Review

John S. Wilson's Tribes is an apocalyptic survival story set along the hilly slopes of Western Missouri, north of Kansas City outside the small town of Tracy, Missouri.  A small gated subdivision pools its resources to try and survive the economic collapse of the United States.  It is part of the Joshua (Joshua, Traveler) series of apocalyptic novels, but has its own storyline.

I am not sure who the couple and child are supposed to be, they don't match the main characters in the book.  Maybe it is the suicidal mom, and her family.

We have done an author biography on our two previous reviews of this series (see links above), so I won't keep repeating the same information here. 

The action takes place in Greenwood Estates "a small gated community snugly nestled out of the way on a hill north of the city.  Twenty-two houses, a tennis court, a "community room" with both a pool and card table, a private security guard and one duck pond."

Although the author has worked at  a lot of different jobs in his life, I doubt he has been a successful real estate developer.  You don't get too many middle class developments with full stone and iron walls around them.  Shoot the fence would cost as much as the homes in such a small community. But realistic or not, that is where the action is. 

The location of the novel, near Tracy, Missouri,  is based on the mention of refugees coming from North Kansas City High School, someone getting to their place having to break a barricade where I-29 crosses the One-Hundred and Two River (which it does just north of Platte City), and the presence of Missouri National Guardsmen.  If I had to guess, I would say they are in a little cul de sac development on either Rt 273 or 321 leaving to the north from Tracy, Mo.  Nine miles north of Platte City.
The author is oddly sloppy in his tactics.  He goes into all these details about how they build a safe house in the middle of the community (o.k.) and then they cut back the woods from the upper slope overlooking the stone wall to 100 yards.  Hmmm, one of the big problems with perimeter walls is not from people firing at you from the front, but people shooting at you from the back side.  This knowledge goes back to before Vauban (1833-1707).  Cutting back the woods on the uphill back or side of the property pretty much means that someone has a pretty could clear shot on the front gate, or at the very least can command one stretch of wall. And once the bad guys have a stretch of wall, now they are firing away into your compound.  The solution to this, was abatis and barbed wire. The action gets to be a little like in F-troop when the Indians attack the fort, except that some superficial nobody usually bites the dust so they can all have a good cry. FWIW, I when I have done miniature skirmish level simulations, I have found the backyard defense if combined with some entanglements to slow up pursuit seems to work the best: houses and other strong points (like walls) are too easy for a better armed or numbered foe to focus on.

Shoot em in the back (from here)
The novel is a much simpler, and readable version of David Crawford's Lights Out.  You have the community pulling together, and common defense criteria being established.  The survivalists within the community decide to share with the other folks, so the tiny community has an amazing one-years worth of food on hand.  The folks seem a bit wooden to me at times, but I have to admit, modern passively entertained folks who have lost their method of livelihood, or just retired, are not always the most interesting folks anyway.  So maybe the wooden characterization is realistic.
The story only covers the summer after the collapse.  So the action involves some adventures outside of the compound, and some fighting involving attacks on the compound.  They are variously plausible, but certainly entertaining.  There is only one competent soldier type with them, but you would not expect a lot of competence at this stage of the game.  Even most of the soldiers are going to be amateurs at this style of warfare.
So did I like it?  It was fun. It was painless.  I don't think it was as well thought out as the two earlier books of his that I reviewed, but at least the author makes an attempt at some logical thinking through of the situation.  This one gets a little closer to the prepper-fantasy world were a bunch of average Joe become competent military types, but it is not too obnoxiously triumphant.  The author doesn't waste time ranting and raving about politics. So if you like the genre, and its many close cousins (zombie-fare for one), you would probably like it well enough.
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.
It is about a near term collapse within the context of the modern world.  The some what unlikely situation with the one-years worth of food, the lack of concern about what would be huge ammunition expenditure, and the convenient fort-like nature of the community takes a little bit away from the edge.  I will call it a six.

It is a very readable story.  A little slower to get going than his earlier works, I will also say it is a six.


PioneerPreppy said...

I need to pick this one up sometime. It sounds rather interesting.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: I hadn't noticed that you had gone 12th century (helm) on us.

It is not a perfect novel, but they offer a lot of interesting what-if thought experiments.