A WAR OF SHADOWS BY JACK L. CHALKER

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Copyright 1979.

A small town of Cornwell, Nebraska has its population go catatonic. Soon Boland, California has it’s residents become blind. Berwick, Maine the population becomes severely mentally retarded. McKay, Maryland the population comes up with a case of complete memory loss. It soon becomes apparent that the United States is under attack. Some unknown terrorist organization is launching biological attacks against small town America. Panic ensues and the President declares martial law. A director of the FBI recruits a former radical to infiltrate the terrorist group. He uncovers a plot that involves the highest levels of the government to seize complete power.

I decided to get this book because it had an intriguing cover and an interesting plot. So a conspiracy of rich elites have infiltrated all levels of government. They use some useful idiot leftists to cause a crisis. Then panic ensues and they are given absolute power to implement their agenda. Yeah that couldn’t happen in real life. I was amazed that a book written forty years ago is more relevant then when it first came out. It is all about how people will give up their freedom in times of crisis for security. Naturally they get neither freedom or security. We seen this with 9/11 and more recently with the pandemic. There was some truly creepy stuff in that this conspiracy would keep those they though they might use later on prisoner in a mental institution. They would regress then to be 4 years old so they could be easily controlled.

I found this book one of the best I have read in a long time. It kept my interest from beginning to end. It also had a happy ending. Basically the laws and bureaucracy this conspiracy created was used against them. It was a very poetic justice that happened. If you want to read a really fascinating thriller I would recommend this book.

THE HELLBOUND TRAIN BY WILL SUNDOWN

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Copyright 1991.

It is ten years after Hovik’s attack on Camp 351 released the government’s virus. Now the world has been reduced to small isolated communities eking out a living. Ross MacKenzie is a former Marine aviator and astronaut. After some roving gang kills his wife he decides to wander the countryside. He gets captured by the troops of General James M. Decker. Decker a former major in the Arizona National Guard has now given himself a promotion and formed the Army of America. In a huge train he travels to the Sierra Nevada mountains for a government secret complex. There he will find arms, ammunition and nuclear weapons to equip his army for the conquest of the country. MacKenzie escapes with the help of a young Indian woman and the two make it to Hovik’s settlement. There they have to find a way to stop the mad general and his train or else Decker’s mad dream of conquest will become a reality.

So the second and final book in the series by Will Sundown is basically a more standard end of the world type book. Civilization has collapsed and the main threat is this deranged general. Decker is your typical right-wing stereotype caricature. He fancies himself a George Patton type and loves all the great military figures like Alexander and MacArthur. He thinks everyone not with him is a commie and laments the moral decline of America. He even thinks that slavery was a good thing only America should have never used the genetically inferior blacks. Instead they should have bought Poles from the Russians.

While not as good as his first book it still is an enjoyable read. Hovik has really grown as a character. He is now a father and leader of the community. A man who now has responsibility and no longer the aimless criminal looking out for only himself. He actually wants to stop Decker as a sort of payback for being responsible for releasing the virus that destroyed civilization. Naturally with a train as the main enemy it ends on a spectacular crash over a cliff. Something very obvious to the reader but still quite satisfying.

Will Sundown is a pen name for William Sanders. He has written a number of Science Fiction mostly alternate history books. One he won an award for I remember thinking about getting long ago so I might check out more of his stuff in the future. This series never when on after his two books which is fine. I don’t really see this world as having the potential for a long term series and these two book are good stand alone reads.

POCKETS OF RESISTANCE BY WILL SUNDOWN

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Copyright 1990.

It is the future and America is an authoritarian police state. Hovik is a former Marine who got caught selling guns to the resistance and is now at a prison camp in Nevada. Hovik isn’t himself a very political man but he is caught up in the bureaucracy so now is assigned to this camp for political prisoners. One day there is an escape and the commandant decides to send all those that were in the work detail that didn’t escape to Camp 351. The prisoners sent to this camp are rumored to be part of medical experiments and no one ever returns. So while being transported, Hovik escapes. With him is a young timid computer hacker. The two evade the security forces and make it to San Francisco. He hooks up with the local resistance and agrees to lead an assault on Camp 351. So with a bunch of “amateurs, losers and psychos” he must assault a guarded camp and shove the government’s germ warfare project down their throats.

What strikes me the most about this book is how not dated it seems even though its thirty years old. There are endless wars in the Middle East. Everyone uses credit cards because cash is discouraged so the government has more control over the people. The whole government is not really an Orwellian one but a half-assed authoritarian one. Described as a car that just slowly falls apart over time. Something that comes about over time because of neglect and apathy. One where the real power is faceless bureaucrats that operate behind the scenes. In one scene one of these bureaucrats shows a political prisoner one of his books. He states that they aren’t illegal to own although not on the approved list for schools or libraries. That with over half the population functionally illiterate and only one in ten even being able to understand what the book is about. So they don’t even care if they exist.

Hovik the hero is an anti-hero in the vein of Snake Plissken. A tough old guy who got kicked out of the Marines and spend most of his life in petty criminal ventures. The resistance is as much an enemy as the government. They knew about the camp but want it intact for propaganda purposes. They seem more interested in their own power and conducting purges. The author clearly has a distrust of those on the left and right as being the same power hungry individuals. So Hovik and this group find out that the camp was developing a virus to cleanse the world of undesirables. Something that they inadvertently release causing a global pandemic.

The author has a dedication at the beginning that acknowledges all those in DC and elsewhere that are working tirelessly to make books like this believable. Sadly that seems more true then thirty years ago.