I really wanted to like this book. I tried so very hard to like this book. Honest, I did. I'm a dystopia/utopia, post-apocalyptic, world is collapsing literature fan like no other. So to have a book being written by someone who is actually a person who understands preparedness that is not just a how-to was an exciting prospect.
Unfortunately, there is no amount of force that can make me like this book.
The story premise is good enough to have made a great book. The Drummonds, a family of 4, are hit by a massive earthquake in the PNW. While this may seem a local disaster, it is quickly followed by the rapid crash of the United States like a large house of cards. Financial messes of the past catch up with us and bank failures domino into a lack of imports without cash, insufficient coverages on debt and personal disasters as corporations fall. The Drummonds and most of the remaining members of their small community are left essentially alone without the massive aid that our country has sent to disaster areas in the past.
Without fuel, electricity and even structurally sound homes, they make do with what they have in creative ways. The community rallies, at least the good guys do, and through much they persevere and turn lawns into farms and spare parts into power.
Sounds good, right? I thought so too. But then I read the first page and my heart sunk. The editing in this book is so bad as to be non-existent. While I understand this is a self-published book, the author is on enough of the same message boards as I am to know that he had a vast resource at his fingertips just to check grammar if he so chose. The run on sentences, bad grammar, repetitive word choice and poor writing habits are obvious and distracting. But I can forgive that, after all, it is self published and like many others in the genre, like Lights Out, there is no rule that says he can't re-write.
But then you have to deal with the brand name bonanza. One of the worst habits that post-apocalyptic or SHTF (S*.^ hit the fan) novels or stories fall into is the incessant listing of brands and model numbers. Every single thing is listed out by brand. The hero doesn't just pull on some boots to go outside. No, he pulls on his Cabela Model XYZ that he got three years ago and show only approximately 30% wear, boots to go outside. ARGH...that is such a bad habit! It is even worse in that it immediately dates the book and makes it irrelevant when models change in a year or two. Enough said about that.
There is also the problem of believability and scale. We don't find out the size of the property the Drummonds live on for over 200 pages, yet we are walked from place to place into a large number of buildings containing an infinite array of stuff. Yet we also know his place is in a subdivision where he can see his neighbors. It is a distracting gap and one that makes it seem like he didn't map out his own setting. It turns out the place is rather small and yet he has more outbuildings than I've seen on a crowded looking 10 acre farmette. And the sheer quantities he talks about of various items, from tractors to generators to large food caches, leaves a mental image of the home of a hoarder in the OCD sense of the word.
And, of course, there is the issue of the man who has everything, knows everything and even more unbelievable, knows where it all is. This might not sound like it would be a major point, but we're not talking about your home workshop here. We're talking such a vast amount of equipment and parts from big to tiny that you would need a warehouse for it all. All this is jumbled up in shaken outbuildings and a half collapsed home. Yet never once does he falter or need directions.
And then there is the attitude. In Deep Winter and Shatter I counted over 800 instances of rank sexism and non-Christian hatemongering. After a second reading, in which I took notes and did the counting, I realized that this book didn't so much remind me of a good down-home family surviving the crash of the modern world but instead a clan of Christian-Identity members relishing the crash. I know that sounds harsh, but there it is. There is no personality at all in any female in the book. And often they are just referred to as a subordinate group such as saying "the women" did this or "the females" went to do that. In this book, the idea of the Christian male who controls all activities and has the last word in all matters with the surrendered female is laid out in all its sickening splendor. This isn't to say that I disapprove of anyone's religion since I certainly don't even if I don't share it. But having it simply laid out repeatedly as established fact that anyone who isn't Christian deserves what is happening and those not sharing his religious belief simply get a lower priority in saving or helping isn't pretty.
As if all that weren't enough, there is the lack of emotion. Any person, even abnormal ones, are going to have some reaction to big traumatic happenings. In one instance just after the quake and while the world is still going along, their best friends show up. While attending a high school sports activity, the place basically collapses and kills a couple of hundred folks right in front of them and their kids. Now, if you showed up at a friend's house and relayed that story, what do you suppose the reaction would be? Shock, maybe horror and certainly concern for how those kids are, right? Nope. These folks actually sat in their car right outside the death scene, simply assuming everyone was dead, until light then drove straight over for tea and cookies with the Drummonds. And after going from sports to massacre, they immediately transition to small talk and jokes around a cozy wood stove. This is just one of a great many instances in which this story winds up as purely mechanical and has no emotional resonance with charcters that behave more like hard drives.
My bottom line on this book is that it is a great story premise with much potential. It needs a serious edit for mechanical problems. It really needs to be reconsidered in his obvious biases and intolerance for other religons and vastly improve his characterizations for all the characters he personally doesn't see himself in such as the female characters. For those who like to read about the minutiae of how to make a generator out of a spare small engine and want recommendations on which jacket lasts in adverse conditions, this might strike just the right chord.