By Jim Tortolano
There are shelves and shelves of what I call “apocalypse fiction.” These are books about the downfall of the world or just America. It could be aliens, zombies, disease or any of a host of other causes.
Most of them don’t take a political slant, but William Dietz’ new novel, “Into the Guns,” does. The timing is intriguing and – I hope – not portentous, because it deals with a Second Civil War.
Dietz is best-known for his military science fiction with stories which are usually set in outer space. But “Guns” puts the conflict right in our own backyard. At a moment in time where division and anger seem to threaten to divide the body politic, this book suggests the idea that we are just one big crisis away from Yankees and Rebels again.
Here’s the somewhat belabored premise: a bunch of meteors strike the earth, causing massive damage and triggering an ill-considered nuclear response from the Chinese. The leadership of the United States is decapitated, and into the breach comes a bunch of Wall Street types who want to turn the nation into one big corporation, with a Board of Directors replacing Congress, the courts and even the voting public.
At the same time, the folks down south – who apparently have been waiting for this moment since, oh, say, 1865 – secede from the rest of the country and create a New Confederacy with oil as the new cotton.
So who is our hero in this one? A lot of military fiction tends to skew far-right politically, but in this instance the go-to guy is Samuel Sloan, the former Secretary of Energy when things go sidewise. He becomes a plucky patriot president who seeks to rally the nation to “rise” from the disaster and stick to its best democratic principles.
In “Guns” Dietz features women prominently as heroes and villains, which is a refreshing change from the “women-as-hostage” approach. On the other hand, Dietz just cannot help himself from giving you every minute detail about weapons and weapons systems, a focus that distracts from the main narrative.
This book is presented as the first in the new “America Rising” series. Is there a hidden fissure in our nation just waiting for a catastrophe to split us apart? Can the center hold? “Guns” has some interesting things to suggest about the U.S. in the context of a sci-fi book. It remains to be seen if in the next volume in the series he can cool his love affair with firearms a bit and focus a tad more on the issues and people that might accompany a future “War Between the States.”
Categories: Arts & Leisure