Friday, April 8, 2011

Gardener Summer: The Review

Gardener Summer is not your latest Square Foot Gardening fad.

Gardener is the name of the cowboy-like main protagonist in the American Apocalypse series.  He derives his name from his use of a sharpened gardening trowel as a weapon early in the series: this is the closest he comes to being an agrarian in the series.  The series starts, and this book is set, in the outskirts of Washington D.C. as our economy has made it about halfway to the point of complete collapse.

I read the first in the series, American Apocalypse: The Beginning, after seeing a review of it at Calculated Risk.  That novel I read as hard copy, and the second and third when they were available online.  This one I read as an e-book. 

I felt that the American Apocalypse: The Beginning was good at times, but uneven. 

In the second and third books the series leaves the environs of collapsing Washington D.C. the story began to lose its appeal.  Mystical elements are added that are very much out of sync with the previous gritty realism.   The combat scenes, cowboyish at times previously, went way over the top as the series continued.  Gardener begins running around the woods carrying (20 pound) light machine guns and nailing everyone right-and-left.  He is armed with a single action .357, almost always makes the head shot, and everyone falls dead instantly.  Wyatt Earp, who did a lot of this type of fighting, preferred the shotgun. The only reason he did not have it at O.K. Coral was because he gave his to the unarmed Doc Holiday.  I’ll stick with Wyatt.

After Book 2 and 3, Nova wrote, Gardener Summer.  Gardener Summer goes back to fill in some time gaps from Book 1 in the outskirts of Washington D.C. So it is back in the strongest setting in the series.  It also has the advantage of a much more practiced author.  His writing is very good to excellent.  Gardener is still very deadly, but he is usually doing it in a way that makes a lot more sense.  He walks up to people and shots them before they are ready:  a commendable method for dealing with bad guys.

The setting is of a slow-partial collapse in the D.C. area.  Gardener has has moved up just a little from being homeless.  He has a gun, and every now and then he is with his ex-veteran mentor:  Max.  The author’s take on what an urban collapse would look like is similar to what the homeless have to deal with today, but with everything outside of a few gated communities being that way.  There is still money, but no work.  People camp out in their cars, in parks.  In a few areas people are in their homes, but so many homes have been foreclosed on, that the neighborhoods have been destroyed.

The people on the corner don’t seem to be too concerned about our approach. There are four of them.  Three are standing; one is sitting on an overturned empty white five-gallon bucket.  My guess is that it is his personal bucket.  Buckets like that are a sought after commodity.  Much easier on your ass than a milk crate, and they come with a handle so you can load stuff in them and carry it much easier than in a plastic bag or milk crate.

Of course mayhem ensues. Later…

One thing being homeless taught me right away was that the police had one face for the propertied class and another one for people like me.  It later occurred to me that the face I saw was their real one since I posed no threat to their jobs.  They are free to jerk people like me around all they want.  What can we about it?  Legal Aid is gone. The media? Do they even do news anymore?  The only good thing is they don’t want to lock us up anymore.  That costs money. What they do like to do is put your stuff in the trunk and you in the backseat.  Then they drive to the city limits and kick your ass out.  Who knows what happens to your belongings. They are probably tossed out behind an empty office building after a quick look through.


I come to the end of the trail where it feeds into a dead end street. There is a car parked there and I give it a wide berth.  It has curtains in the windows and etiquette is to give them some room if you can.  This is called the “Texas” rule.  Supposedly it is the result of a court ruling in Texas said a man’s car, if being lived in, is his home. That means he has the right to defend it in a radius of seven feet around it.  This has become part of the vocabulary, as in “Step away from my car or I’m going to go Texas upside your head.”

I don’t know how they came up with seven feet as the magic number. Maybe because people in most Car People communities try to keep an empty parking space on all sides of them It gives them a place to set up their chairs and coolers, with room for the kids to play.

The author has a strong feel for his setting.

As you can see from the price, it is novella length.  It is also very good.  It is probably one of the most detailed renditions of what an urban slow collapse would look like.  Thus it is pretty grim.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for reading. You caught the cowboy theme I am trying to do.

I read Wyatt's biography around the time I wrote this. His life stayed interesting to end and the end was a long time coming.

I am not trying for a 100% realism as I am hoping to write Gardener and the rest as mythic figures in the making.

The Freya element is an attempt to write about what I think could happen; the clash of religions and the narrative people use to see the world and their place in it.


russell1200 said...

I assume that Freya shows up after you read Neil Gaiman's American Gods then.

If people started worshiping Freya, and feeling they were getting inspiration, and changing their behavior, I would understand the point. But Freya is actually with them, and delivers them some rabbits to eat. And she is begging them to be worshiped. Which fits well enough with Neil Gaiman, but not so much with real world spiritual paths.

If it makes you feel any better, I don't think Gaiman pulled it off either.