Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Edge of the Earth: A Review.

Russell Hill 's The Edge of the Earth is a apocalypse-in-progress set after a major financial crash has imploded the U.S. economy.  Published in 1986 (originally as Cold Creek Cash Store), it is one of the precursor of Rawles economic collapse scenarios. It shows up on the longer lists of "favorites" put out by various survivalist bloggers.  Since it is usually listed under its hard to find original title, I am not sure if people are reading it or just cut-and-pasting each others lists.

Russell Hill is an established author, known primarily for his detective fiction although he has a varied career.  Born in New Mexico, he moved to California in 1945 as a youngster, and eventually went on to become a high school English teacher.  His initial writings were in the field of education.  At time he wrote The Edge of the Earth he was at the  University of Iowa in 1985 as a National Endowment Humanities Whitman Fellow.  He eventually went on to write three Edgar nominated novels; his latest, The Dog Sox, being nominated in 2011. 

As to our book being reviewed here, the author's blurb:
America has fallen. Finally, after decades of waste and neglect, skyrocketing inflation, rampant greed, and social decay, the bottom has dropped out. Primitive, barbaric darkness has descended. With no ties to hold him, and no hope to sustain himself if he remains among the marauding madness, Evan Walker sets out to find sanctuary. What he discovers, high in the Sierra Nevada mountains, is the closet thing to a sane civilization he can ever hope to find: a ramshackle country store run by an impromptu “family” of refugees. Together with Evan this curious clan of survivors carves out a new existence as latter-day pioneers—battling the elements, living off the land, and preparing for the inevitable day when the world they have fled finds them again…and their real battle for survival begins.

The book came out in 1986, which would have it being written after the absolute low point of the 1970s-1980s economic malaise, but is during that period before the 1990s economic resurgence when crime was at its peak, and there was dread of increasing crime and disorder.

At the very start of the story, our main character Evan hides his VW bus in the trees, disassembling various portions of it,  and hiding its tires to make it hard to steal.  The is actually pretty close to normal pre-apocalyptic behaviour in the 1980s:  a time period where the interstates and freeways around major cities commonly saw cars with their tires stolen, sitting up on cinder blocks.

Unlike some other stories of this type, there is no overtly racial element to the social collapse.  Although it is stated that the people within the cities moved out into the suburbs, suspecting that the wealthy suburbanites were hording food, there is not much in the way of detailed descriptions of the people themselves.

The primary bad-guys in the novel are one percenter motorcycle gang members.  Generally in relatively small numbers.  By today's apocalyptic novelistic standard, everyone is very much underarmed, and the combat -such as it occurs - is generally between groups of inept unprepared people.

The story is a bit of a cozy.   The little group is able to pull together a somewhat comfortable existence, and at the end it appears that the world will be back on the mend.  There is a little bit of  slightly graphic sexual scenes between a couple that is likely to be getting married at some point. 

The book is a fairly quick, fun read.   It does a pretty good job of illustrating the friction and problems that can occur within a small, randomly thrown together group left to their own means.  Their primary means of defense is to stay hidden, and the concern for this concealment is prevalent throughout.  The group is more in the way of accidental survivalists, than intentional ones, but they make a fairly good run of it.

For our descriptive (not qualitative) descriptions of realism and readability (1 to 7:  with 7 being highest).

Realism is mixed.  The book is dated, the participants are extremely underarmed, and the site that they are living at is almost preternaturally well adapted to their needs.   On the other hand, day-to-day living concerns, and group cohesion are highlighted issues.  The concern for staying hidden extends even to not wanting to hunt with firearms because of the noise.  The novel takes place over a relatively short period of time (July to Spring of next year).  Their limited preparations, and non-existent defenses are not pushed very hard.  I am going to put it at an above average at a 5.

Readability is straightforward.  It is an easy, quick read with little in the way of hidden symbolism.  Almost all motivations are at some point spelled out clearly.  It is not a page turner, so I am going to say that it is a 6.
Russell Hill (from here)


PioneerPreppy said...

Glad you got the review page up. Makes it easier to go back and pick the ones I want to read.

russell1200 said...

Yes, You could always use the google toolbar, but that was a pain.

The real problem was getting the Review Roundup to fit into the space (width) allowed. Deleting the link to Amazon (found in the review anyway) solved that problem.

It so far (keep fingers crossed) actually posts a little more clearly with the new blogger.

At some point I may need to break it up for size purposes, but with only a couple of posts on a seperate tab, it should be a lot easier to navigate.