Monday, July 18, 2011

Long Voyage Back: A review.

Luke Rhinehart (George Cockcroft) is famous for his creation of The Dice Man. 
His Long Voyage Back is a very different type of story. Originally published in 1983, it is very much within the genre of nuclear war apocalypse-in-progress stories that came out in an earlier era.  It appears to have influence the much later The Fall of Eden.

The Wikipedia entry pegs it as an anti-nuclear rant.  But I take it to be more of a pacifist polemic.  Luke Rinehart’s anti-war stance is clearly pegged out in his Jesus Invades George: an alternate history where we get to see, one morning in 2007, what happens when the Lord Jesus posses the body of President George Bush.  In the context of the social breakdown along the East Coast after a nuclear war, pacifist writings can seem pretty sensible.   Throughout the book we see, plausibly, people come to violence because the weapons in their hands make this seem like their best option.   Of all the mistaken impressions that people have had of me, thinking I was a pacifist is not one that has ever been voice.  But point that the ready use of weapons leads to rapid, poorly thought out actions is probably a point well considered.
At this late date, we seem to think we are beyond global nuclear exchanges.  The most noteworthy  part about the story is the sailing.  The novel starts in the Chesapeake Bay, and as nuclear war strikes there are desperate attempts to find people, and then to sail off with sufficient supplies to make their way to a safe destination.
Their stops to get supplies are very tense moments.  A Federal government that is desperately (and honestly) trying to hold a little remnant of the country together , tends to be a very heavy handed government indeed, and looking out for the greater good does not mean looking out for you.
In between the tense episodes on land, there is a lot of sailing. The sailing is apparently accurate enough that the book was reprinted in 1995 by Naval Institute Press.  There are pirates to worry about, and when they don’t have outside threats, the small group is arguing, and the arguments turn ugly at times.
The book is not perfect.  It deals with the needs of an ocean bound boat in dangerous times.   It may cure some people (Orlov) of the notion that it is some sort of perfect bug out vehicle.  It also does a reasonable job portraying anarchy in a mobile setting.  It is obviously dated, but worth reading for the attention to the sailing and supply issues relative to the boating scenario.

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