Trading the Big Dragon for the Little Dragon
The main character in the story is a middle-aged professor in a small college town in North Carolina. The professor is a widower, having lost his wife to cancer a few years back, who lives with his two teenage daughters. The story begins a few hours before an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is detonated over the United States. It is not clear for several chapters that an EMP is what caused the disruption of power, and the enemy is never clearly identified in the book. The story is less about the attack itself than it is about the struggle to survive in the aftermath ... the crippling effects of the instantaneous and long-term disruption of communication and transportation, the inevitable shortages of food and clean water and, ultimately, the breakdown of civilized society.
I don't have a problem with the author's conjecture about what the population would face in such a crisis. What I do have a problem with is my impression of what the author sees as a solution to that kind of crisis.
Within days after the EMP, the townspeople begin to organize. Several high muckety-mucks such as the mayor, the chief of police, a physician and the professor get together and start having closed door meetings. Even the first day, there is talk of 'the authorities' (now defined as these few) commandeering resources such as the few vehicles that still run and food supplies ...for the good of the whole community, right?
The professor happens to be driving his mother-in-law's old Edsel which, of course, is among the vehicles that is still functional after the EMP. He immediately objects on his own behalf, making it clear that he will not willingly part with the keys to his own transportation. The committee reluctantly agrees to let him keep it. Special privilege? Some more equal than others?
Ration cards for food are implemented. After a bit of discussion, it's decided that no one will be forced to participate in the ration program. The implication was that there were some whacky 'survivalist types' on the outskirts of town who the committee felt might be difficult to bring into the fold. But they decided that any who did choose to participate would have to agree to a search of their property and confiscation of any food stores found there ...for the communal coffer, of course. Redistribution of goods?
The book chronicles the town's struggles over the a period of about a year. The story ends with the (new) military coming to the town, bringing food and medical supplies and the promise that more help is coming. In comparing notes with the military officer in charge, the professor learns that his little town has fared far better than some areas of the country. And, you guessed it, this is attributed to the 'organization' and 'decisive leadership' of the professor and his committee mates. New nanny gov steps in to save the world (township) when big nanny gov goes away?
Does anyone else have a problem with this? We are currently fighting an overgrown, self-righteous government that believes we are incapable of taking care of ourselves and seeks to take over every aspect of our lives. If the proverbial sh*t ever does hit the fan, we will be facing a lot of the scenarios portrayed in the book. But if we get to that point, I will not be looking for a new master to rule my destiny. I will take care of me and mine. Alliances may be formed but they will be mutually desired and mutually beneficial ...or they will not happen. In my opinion, it is foolish to trade a big dragon for a little dragon ...because little dragons will only grow over time.