Nathan Poell, author of Post-Apocalypse Dead Letter Office , is a technical services librarian at Baker University who has had his poetry in Kansas University’s Kiosk, and several nonfiction pieces (apparently about apple cultivation) with Mother Earth News and Brew Your Own. Apparently he brews beer in pumpkins.
It also received a mention at the Kansas City Star, and a nice write up at the student written Baker Orange which I used for some of the biographical information. I am going to go over a few items that give me pause first, that way I can end on a positive note.
The book has seems to have an agenda at times, various groups that one might think a PC, poetically inclined, archival person, working University, who writes for Mother Jones author might not much care for do not come off particularly well:
· Local law enforcement. Given the Mother Jones connection, it is not too surprising they don't get too much good press. The oddity here is that much like in Ardath Mayhar's The World Ends in Hickory Hollow, even a little bit of effective law enforcement could make a huge difference in these small towns. You would expect a bit of survivor bias to make law enforcement look better.
On a final note, the build up toward the final resolution is a bit too cute. The reverse chronology is interesting; I just don't care for where it went. Depending on your biases and preferences you can come to a resolution as to what occurred. It's a sterling example how to lose the heat of the moment.
O.K. now that we are past the quibbles, we can end on a positive note; because in all I did enjoy the novel.
The reverse chronology does build up a certain amount of tension as to find out what happened.
The letters also allow the story to jump around and give many points of view. It allows dispersion in both geography and time. In (quasi-) realistic dystopian works like this, the characters should be in a fog as to the bigger picture. The letter writing allows an expansion of knowledge, while the participants are still very much in the dark. If they weren't in the dark, they wouldn't be writing letters to people who never get them.
Global warming, is handled in a realistic fashion. The United States is often considered to be one of the better off places to ride out that problem, but in world that has suddenly gone local, that doesn't help much when it is your well that has run dry. The weather plays out like a drought spell within a warming condition. It is also possible that it is simply a normal drought, since they can be a fairly major problem as well.
We feel...simultaneously empowered by our new relevance to everyone else in Eureka (and their reciprocally increased relevance to us) ...
Nothing wrong with a good cosy. Not every novel has to take on the tone of Cormack McCarthy's The Road.
Because none of these letters reached their destination, there is generally an element of heartbreak. Particularly poignant is the very long letter giving very detailed directions to a beloved couple who is trying to make it to a section of the West Coast that has held on reasonably well. The letter obviously never reached the couple, and the likelihood of them reaching their destination without this assistance seems unlikely; which only begs the question of why they were not there to receive the letter.
I think my favorite story is the out of shape, auto-mechanic who goes to the very dangerous environs of Denver on behalf of his estranged wife to find out what has become of his step son. He is anything but the skillful scout, but simply refuses to abandon the effort. He is in a little bit of a lurch at the time he is writing the letter, and we can only hope that he found a way to work out his situation. Of course it is also sad that, after all that effort, the letter never made it back to the boy’s mother.
The writing styles are varied and plausible. Maybe a little too much of the dope dealers. But if there is one particular "voice" that you do not care for, you will soon be on to the next. I would be interested to see it in a hard copy version, but the e-book version is a perfectly fine read. Having a version of it online is obviously going to cut into sales, but hopefully that will be a bit of good Karma that will wrap its way back around to the author.
* Cosy: stories involving a sudden non-violent event wiping out most of civilization; the cosines refers to the conceit of a band of survivors left to rebuild society in relative comfort. The term was originally coined by Brian Aldis who used it to refer to John’s Wyndham’s novels, particularly The Day of the Triffids. Note that the lack of violence is relative to other ways to end the world that were: such as nuclear bombs.