Monday, December 27, 2010

What So Proudly We Hailed by James Howard

What So Proudly We HailedRecently I received a review copy of this book from Mr. Howard, and last night after dinner I picked it up to read. Couldn't really put it down until I finished it, right around bedtime. A quick and interesting read.

This novel is set in the very near future, in an America which I'm sure you'll all recognize. A man and his son are out getting some school supplies from the grocery store in a small coastal town in South Carolina when they see a mysterious contrail, possibly from a missile, light up the sky. When they get home and turn on the radio, they find out that the U.S. has been attacked by nuclear missiles.

The targets turn out to be the crucial nodes in the electrical power grid across the country, or at least those that can be reached from a sub in the Gulf of Mexico with intermediate range missiles. The perpetrators are the North Koreans, using an old surplused Yankee class Russian submarine (bought it at a yard sale? LOL. Not really, just the way my mind works sometimes). When I read that bit, I flashed back to reading a book called Blind Man's Bluff, about the cat-and-mouse games the U.S. and U.S.S.R. used to play with each other under the seas during the Cold War.

The father, Jason, realizes very quickly that things could get ugly very fast. Much of the social fabric that knits our nation together in times of disaster or war has unraveled over the years, as the entitlement mentality has spread, and the mob has become addicted to the bread and circuses of the modern media. He gathers up all the supplies he can get quickly and locally, and evacuates his family from the area on a 26 foot cabin cruiser he's been restoring. They "hide out" in the maze of the barrier islands, keeping track of events on the mainland by short wave radio.

The first bit of this book reminds me a bit of Farnham's Freehold, by Heinlein. Jason is the only one in his family who immediately reacts to the danger of social disintegration that is bound to follow, and some of his family refuse to leave with him. There's also the addition of a non-family member to the party, his daughter's friend, Julie, and there's at least the potential for a love triangle to develop there, as it did between Hugh Farnham and Barbara in that novel.

However, Jason is a Christian man and faithful husband, and when Julie pushes for a physical relationship with him, he relies on self-control and the power of prayer to resist. Refreshing, in a way, not to see people leaping into bed headlong in all the books I read. There was a bit of this scene that just didn't ring quite right. It's hard to believe that Jason, who has two grown children and one teenager, had never been faced with this type of situation before, in fact he seemed quite surprised by it. I think most Christian men have faced down these sort of issues more than once in the course of a two decade marriage. But that's a minor quibble.

The overall theme and plot of the book also resembles the Left Behind series by Lahaye and Jenkins, in that Jason's family and other christians are struck by the similarity of world events as they begin to unfold, and the Biblical prophecies concerning the end times. I gotta guess that Mr. Howard is a post-Trib Rapture believer, as there was no evidence of anyone vanishing from the christian communities before the persecution of christians starts.

Predictably (at least to anyone paying attention), multiple groups, from the radical Islamists, to the Chinese, to the militias, the politicians and petty tyrants, take advantage of the disarray and disaster to pursue their own agendas. A self-proclaimed Mahdi arises in the Middle East, and much of Europe bows to his demands, and even the Vatican begins negotiating with him. The novel leaves things dangling a bit at the end, and I have to wonder if Mr. Howard has more in store for us with a series here. Great stuff from a new author, without any graphic sex and violence, just a scary scenario to consider.

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