Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Last Centurion

The Last Centurion by John Ringo is not actually a science fiction novel. It could be classed in that genre solely because it takes place in 2019, but there is no technology or weaponry that doesn’t already exist.

The basic idea is that the first woman president, modeled on a real life NY Senator, manages to get global warming wrong. (It’s global cooling that happens. Note: the decrease in sunspots, and the decline in solar wind, may be more indicative of global temps than your carbon footprint.) She also manages to screw up the distribution of vaccine when bird flu makes the jump to being human-to-human transmissible.

A good portion of the book is reminiscent of some of the didactic portions of Heinlein, say those in Stranger in a Strange Land, or Time Enough for Love. Now, as it happens, I rather like didactic or philosophical literature. I suppose that should be expected from a guy who did graduate work on Shaw. So while some find didacticism a drawback, I don’t.

I assume that Ringo has done his homework, and that there is some research behind some of his discussions on topics such as farming, immunology, epidemiology, and so on. Ringo believes that societies that are high-trust societies, such as some parts of America, basically the Red states, are more likely to have sociological structures and beliefs that are conducive to survival than others. To put it more simply, those parts of the country that are more gung ho (work together) will survive. Ringo’s distinction is between the ants and the grasshoppers. Grasshoppers generally speaking being those who have a hand out, and ants being those who work.

The story focuses on a company that is stationed in Iran, and is left behind when most of the troops are pulled back to deal with the emergency in the States. The commander, Bandit Six, executes a fighting withdrawal that is modeled on the march of the 10,000 that is described by Xenophon.

The march and its aftermath are described in satisfyingly bloodthirsty detail. So the question remains, how accurate is Ringo’s picture of the aftermath of a bad electoral choice. Well, Ringo got the nominee wrong, but the current offering is just as bad, and would probably screw up just as badly. So I think it is a frightening picture of a time that I hope never comes.

Should you buy the book? If you’re a liberal who needs something to get your blood pressure up and your heart going, yes, otherwise you’ll hate it. If you’re a conservative with a taste for military fiction that has a high body count, yes. If you’re offended by what I shall euphemistically call salty language, no.

Next up is The Day of Battle by Rick Atkinson.