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Monday, October 14, 2013

Reading List: Expatriates

Rawles, James Wesley. Expatriates. New York: Dutton, 2013. ISBN 978-0-525-95390-6.
This novel is the fourth in the series which began with Patriots (December 2008), then continued with Survivors (January 2012) and Founders (October 2012). These books are not a conventional multi-volume narrative, in that all describe events in the lives of their characters in roughly the same time period surrounding “the Crunch”—a grid down societal collapse due to a debt crisis and hyperinflation. While the first three books in the series are best read in order, as there is substantial overlap in characters and events, this book, while describing contemporary events, works perfectly well as a stand-alone thriller and does not contain substantial spoilers for the first three novels.

The earlier books in the series were thrillers with a heavy dose of survival tutorial, including extended litanies of gear. The present volume leans more toward the thriller genre and is, consequently, more of a page-turner.

Peter and Rihannon Jeffords are Christian missionaries helping to run an orphanage in the Philippine Islands wishing nothing more than to get on with their lives and work when the withdrawal of U.S. forces in the Pacific due the economic collapse of the U.S. opens the way for a newly-installed jihadi government in Indonesia to start flexing its imperialist ambitions, looking enviously at Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and ultimately the resource-rich and lightly populated “Top End” of Australia as their manifest destiny.

Meanwhile, Chuck Nolan, a Texan petroleum geologist specialising in explosive seismic exploration, working in the Northern Territory of Australia, is adjusting, along with native Australians, to the consequences of the Crunch. While not directly affected by the U.S. economic collapse, Australia's highly export-driven economy has been severely damaged by the contraction in world trade, and being dependent upon imported food and pharmaceuticals, hardships are everywhere and tragedies commonplace.

Back in the United States, Rihannon Jeffords' family, the Altmillers, are trying to carry on their independent hardware store business in Florida, coping with the collapse of the currency; the emergence of a barter economy and use of pre-1965 silver coins as a medium of exchange; the need for extraordinary security precautions at work and at home as the rule of law and civil society erode; and escalating worries about feral mobs of looters raiding ever wider from the chaos which was Orlando.

As the story develops, we exerience a harrowing sea voyage through hostile waters, asymmetrical warfare against a first world regional power, irregular resistance against an invader, and local communities self-organising defence against an urban “golden horde” ravaging the countryside. You will learn a great deal about partisan resistance strategies, decapitation of opposition forces, and why it is most unwise for effete urban populations to disarm those uncouth and disdained denizens of the boonies who, when an invader threatens, are both the first and ultimate lines of defence.

This book is meticulously researched with a wealth of local and technical details and only a few goofs and copy-editing errors. Like the earlier novels, the author dispels, often with spare prose or oblique references, the romantic notion that some “preppers” seem to have that the collapse of civilisation will be something like a camping trip they'll enjoy because they're “ready”. These happy would-be campers overlook the great die-off, the consequences of masses of people suddenly withdrawing from mood-altering drugs, roving bands of looters, the emergence of war-lords, and all of the other manifestations of the normal state of humanity over millennia which are suppressed only by our ever-so-fragile just in time technological society.

Posted at October 14, 2013 22:31