Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Collision Course: A Review

David Crawford's Collision Course is an apocalypse-in-progress set in the very near future in a purposefully unclear (but somewhere where they have roads named after both prairies and cotton) portion of the United States.  The collapse, or Smash as it is called here, appears to be of a generally economic nature.

David Crawford is well known in some circles for his online, and than commercialized novel, Lights Out.  Lights out was a long serialized novel about life in Texas after an EMP burst caused by a vengeful Arab businessman.  I reviewed Lights Out a while ago, and gave it measured recommendation (Y but not Y+). David Crawford is into guns and karate, and prepping, so the novel presumably would appeal to those who are preparing for the coming crash, or smash as it were.
The book follows two tracks, one is that of a mall security guard, D.J.,  who is trying to bugout to a retreat in the countryside.  With an odd combination of prepper training skills, and amazing (but not clearly intended by the author) ineptitude, we get to follow D.J.'s rather self centered antics on his way to safety. 
Our next hero is Gabe Horne, a washed out drunk who is living in a little trailer outside of a small town.  Gabe is the nicer of the two characters, and to some degree replaces the super-heroic "Mark" from Lights Out.  As Gabe slowly sobers up, he acts in a somewhat leader-like role to help get his little group of neighbor farming families to work together to help each other out.
There are a number of lessons to be learned from the various happenings and encounters that both men have as time goes on, some a little more plausible than others.  One really obvious lesson, which I discussed some time ago in post-apocalyptic fortifications, is that flanking fire is deadly.  D.J. is like a moth to flames every time he hears shooting, and likes to get himself involved.  Because he is coming on the rear/side of the "bad guys", he gets the drop on them, and has the equipment to pull it off.  That many of these scenarios are just a little too easy (too many unobscured shots) is somewhat beside the point.
One lesson I am a bit dubious about is that desirable women are going to be very quickly interested in protective male figures.  My guess is that women will gravitate toward people they already know, and will work a lot harder at finding a weapon than finding some deeply flawed security figure.  In one case Gabe actually talks his lady friend, Jane,  out of selling her father watch for a .22 rifle and a lot of ammunition.  Its a nice gesture I guess, but why would she want to rely on a drunks help, and why wouldn't they want two guns (rather than Gabe's one) and a lot of ammunition.  I think we are getting into cozy territory here where the author is trying to demonstrate a return to normal-paternalistic relations between the sexes.  Whatever.
The title of the book pretty much tells you where it is all going.  But before we get there, D.J. has gotten predictably boring, and Gabe is getting melancholy dull.  The collision is amazingly anticlimactic, and doesn't seem to have a whole lot to do with the rest of the story line.
Up until about the 2/3rd point I would have said that the book was reasonable, but not great.  But D.J. gets more annoying, and Gabe starts annoying, and mostly stays annoying.  If the ending had been a little better thought out, it might have gotten to at least a maybe yes/ maybe no level.  If you really liked cowboy-like bug out adventures, you could skip over Gabe's part, but that would make for a short book, and D.J. just can't carry that much weight.  The guy's supposed killer weapon is a tricked out black rifle .22 with an extended magazine.  D.J.'s best line:
He could fight his way across.  There was a chance he might get hurt, but there were probably just two or three guys guarding the bridge... If it was just those two, DJ could take them out easily.  After all, he was a security specialist, and they were just a couple of yahoos.
For our two descriptive ratings: Realism and readability:  1 to 7: 4 is the midpoint, and 7 is high.
Realism is mixed.  The dialog and activities are far too "adventurous" to have a very real feel.  The collapse is rather uneven in its nature.  You have no rail traffic, but occasional supply trucks show up, somehow being able to make it through the impromptu blockades of local bridges.  Supplies can be had, but only for cash, and both fuel and food are rationed.  There is an awful lot of prepper-bug out type discussions, so I'll go easy and call it a 6.
Readability is fairly straightforward.  Gabe and his boozy ruminations pretty much guarantee its not a page turner, but the language is straightforward, and the obvious prepper/gun crowd in-jokes (mall security) are not particularly important.  It is a 5.


Anonymous said...

I've read the book and your review is spot on. But I did enjoy following DJ. His inner "good guy" dialogue and his resulting "bad guy" actions were interesting. DJ could somehow morally justify doing anything.

I think DJ would do anything to survive but he had that hero thing going. Though DJ was a hero for his own personal advantage. This resulted in his "involvements".

Some of the events were a bit contrived. DJ's fuel problems, some of DJ's decisions.

It was a nice twist to watch DJ's character slowly decay and Gabe's Hollywood-like character's growth.

Scarey thing is I mainly identified myself with DJ, while reading the book.



Anonymous said...

An older David Crawford/halffast short story that's pretty good.

The Bug Out


russell1200 said...

GK: I also identified with DJ. But as witnessed by the the rescue in the grocery store parking lot (a repeat from Lights Out), the owner has a little bit of the action-hero spirit to his writing, so it is hard to know whether he views DJs antics as foolish from the very start. DJ spends a bunch of money on an overly glamerous .22 semi. Certainly nobody wants to be shot by a .22, but in DJ's hands its almost a superweapon - he sees and kills all. That he has done all this advance prepping, and doesn't actually no the status of his end point is bizarre. As I said, DJ started out interesting, if a bit foolish, but just got more and more foolish as time went on. The descent into evil otherwise might have been interesting.

As an online serial novelist Crawford showed a lot of promise. But when you start putting out e-novels and wanting people to pay, you need to step up to another level or you are going to get some seriously negative reactions.

The Angry Lurker said...

Good to know, thanks for this.

russell1200 said...

Hey Francis, Thanks.

I like the crown. Since you were doing Civil War last I saw, does this represent the French Mexican play- the Cinco de Mayo Gambit so to speak. Cinco de Mayo is probably a bit obscure across the pond, Here in the U.S. it is beer drinking holiday created by the brewers. I figure if most Mexicans are unaware of it, y'all would be.

Alex Bobl said...

Sounds interesting. Thanks for review.

russell1200 said...

Thanks Alex, Do you have mall ninjas in Russia? I am guessing that citizens with that much "gear" and firepower would have issues with the authorities.