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The idea behind this blog is to share my opinions about Post-Apocalyptic Literature, Films and Ephemera as well as my random nattering on a regular basis.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Machine Stops

No this post will not be about the short story The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster. I can't I don't own it yet. This is a rare short story that is in fact quite simple to find and read on the interwebs. I haven't read it because I prefer to read the real pen and paper story. Oh well.

Last week I went on my yearly sporting event viewing with the fam. I guess I have to do this once a year to spend some quality time with my father-in-law. It's not a big deal really. Anyhow I went to the annual viewing of the local baseball team. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. I had a pretty good time. We got some general admission seats so I got to sit in camp chair. Let me tell you this was way better then a box seat or a seat in the bleachers. Great time was had by all.

I even brought the book I was starting to the game because we got there early and I get bored way too quickly. Anyhow I sat there reading for a bit and relaxing. That's when I saw it. There was this old dude giving me the old stink eye. I couldn't figure it out. Was he grumpy because I was reading at a ball game? Was he upset because I had smuggled in some Mike 'n' Ikes and Lemonheads? What was his deal? It freaked me out so much I left to get a soda.

Now my wife prefers diet soda so that's what I got. I couldn't help but notice the soda jerk didn't give me a lid or a straw. I asked him and it sounded to me like he said he was out. Fine whatever... I went back to my chair and sat down picked up my book again and continued to read. The whole no lid thing really bugged me. My wife being a thinking sort suggested I go to a different counter and get a the straw/lid combo from them. Great idea I say. When I stand up though my book falls and hits the cup. DAMN IT! Now the ballpark has made me scuff my book.

I keep going though. I really want that lid/straw. I get to the other snack bar and ask them for the lid/straw. Guess what? Seems the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing fugitives from evolution who are regular attendees of the ballpark (also the same sort who kick the backs of theater seats) can't be bothered to throw their trash in the proper place (and the ball park doesn't want to hire someone to do it) so the result is that the park is no longer giving out the lid/straw combo with the drinks. JUMPING JESUS ON A POGOSTICK! That's got to be the third most important element of a successful beverage enjoying occasion (#1 being the beverage and #2 being the cup). And when I got back the old guy was still giving me the ol' hairy eyeball. WTF. Hard to read when when someone is staring at you.

Woooo got that out of the way. That was a full-on Rick Emerson style rant. Wow. Anyhow the point being here is the book I started was Ill Wind by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason. It was a great book. Took me about a week to read it though. Not because it was a bad or boring book but because that week was very busy. First was the whole ball game issue. I should have known it would be a long reading process. I also had to contend with a bit of bottling my home brew and four days on the Columbia River attempting to catch the wily salmon. Not to worry I succeeded at both of those things quite handily.

On to the book discussion now. In Ill Wind by Anderson and Beason (and yes I had to keep telling people it wasn't about farts much like I had to tell my brother-in-law Matt that The Elegance of the Hedgehog had nothing to do with Ron Jeremy) the end comes about from 'The Petroplague'. After a large oil tanker 'The Zoroaster' hits the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay and begins to spill out a giant oil slick it looks like it's going to be the worst disaster the world has seen. Not to worry however because a crafty scientist has bioengineering a microbe that eats petroleum. Neet huh? Of course things go from bad to worse when the microbe gets out of control and eats everything that is petroleum based. It doesn't take much time at all and the world is back in the Dark Ages again.

It's a great book and if I had to compare it anything else I would say it is sort of a mixture of Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle and the Emberverse Series by S. M. Serling. The portion of Hammer I'm talking about is the simple scientists attempting to save what technology there is and using a bunch of improvised weapons to do the job properly. Yes I am perfectly aware of all the negative reviews saying Niven and Pournell are two racist bastards. Whatever. I for one think Lucifer's Hammer was pretty terrific (Tee double e double r double i double c c c ... woot). The portion of the Emberverse Series I saw was just the fact that machines didn't operate any longer and some scientists mentioning that new Dark Ages may descend on the Earth. The Emberverse Series is pretty fantastic in its own right as well. All the PA type stuff happens in the first book 'Dies the Fire' and the rest of the books just go into nation building. The part about the series that bugged me about the series and it not that they don't take advantage of methods of energy that are not fossil fuels or the Alien Space Bats whatever. I had a big problem with everyone all over the Earth at the same time deciding 'Hey I know lets all make armor, swords and crossbows... It'd be great to live in castles too.' I kept expecting them to do it in Ill Wind as well. Well hats off to Anderson and Beason for avoiding that particular pitfall and providing my with an outstanding diversion from everyday bordom.

Oh ya ... the old stink eye dude. Seems the place we chose to set up our camp chairs was also the place where the opposing team (The Canadians? Maybe?) came on the field. The old guy was just wanting to make sure he gave them an 'attaboy' and wish them luck. Wasn't about me at all.

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