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Friday, March 27, 2020

Reading List: Collapse

Schlichter, Kurt. Collapse. El Segundo, CA: Kurt Schlichter, 2019. ISBN 978-1-7341993-0-7.
In his 2016 novel People's Republic (November 2018), the author describes North America in the early 2030s, a decade after the present Cold Civil War turned hot and the United States split into the People's Republic of North America (PRNA) on the coasts and the upper Midwest, with the rest continuing to call itself the United States, its capital now in Dallas, purging itself of the “progressive” corruption which was now unleashed without limits in the PRNA. In that book we met Kelly Turnbull, retired from the military and veteran of the border conflicts at the time of the Split, who made his living performing perilous missions in the PRNA to rescue those trapped inside its borders.

In this, the fourth Kelly Turnbull novel (I have not yet read the second, Indian Country, nor the third, Wildfire), the situation in the PRNA has, as inevitably happens in socialist paradises, continued to deteriorate, and by 2035 its sullen population is growing increasingly restive and willing to go to extremes to escape to Mexico, which has built a big, beautiful wall to keep the starving hordes from El Norte overrunning their country. Cartels smuggle refugees from the PRNA into Mexico where they are exploited in factories where they work for peanuts but where, unlike in the PRNA, you could at least buy peanuts.

With its back increasingly to the wall, the PRNA ruling class has come to believe their only hope is what they view as an alliance with China, and the Chinese see as colonisation, subjugation, and a foothold on the American continent. The PRNA and the People's Republic of China have much in common in overall economic organisation, although the latter is patriotic, proud, competent, and militarily strong, while the PRNA is paralysed by progressive self-hate, grievance group conflict, and compelled obeisance to counterfactual fantasies.

China already has assimilated Hawaii from the PRNA as a formal colony, and runs military bases on the West Coast as effectively sovereign territory. As the story opens, the military balance is about to shift toward great peril to the remaining United States, as the PRNA prepares to turn over a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier they inherited in the Split to China, which will allow it to project power in the Pacific all the way to the West Coast of North America. At the same time, a Chinese force appears to be massing to garrison the PRNA West Coast capital of San Francisco, allowing the PRNA to hang on and escalating any action by the United States against the PRNA into a direct conflict with China.

Kelly Turnbull, having earned enough from his previous missions to retire, is looking forward to a peaceful life when he is “invited” by the U.S. Army back onto active duty for one last high-stakes mission within the PRNA. The aircraft carrier, the former Theodore Roosevelt, now re-christened Mao is about to become operational, and Turnbull is to infiltrate a renegade computer criminal, Quentin Welliver, now locked up in a Supermax prison, to work his software magic to destroy the carrier's power plant. Welliver is anything but cooperative, but then Turnbull can be very persuasive, and the unlikely team undertake the perilous entry to the PRNA and on-site hacking of the carrier.

As is usually the case when Kelly Turnbull is involved, things go sideways and highly kinetic, much to the dismay of Welliver, who is a fearsome warrior behind a keyboard, but less so when the .45 hollow points start to fly. Just when everything seems wrapped up, Turnbull and Welliver are “recruited” by the commando team they thought had been sent to extract them for an even more desperate but essential mission: preventing the Chinese fleet from landing in San Francisco.

If you like your thrillers with lots of action and relatively little reflection about what it all means, this is the book for you. Turnbull considers all of the People's Republic slavers and their willing minions as enemies and a waste of biochemicals better used to fertilise crops, and has no hesitation wasting them. The description of the PRNA is often very funny, although when speaking about California, it is already difficult to parody even the current state of affairs. Some references in the book will probably become quickly dated, such as Maxine Waters Pavilion of Social Justice (formerly SoFi Stadium) and the Junipero Serra statue on Interstate 280, whose Christian colonialist head was removed and replaced by an effigy of pre-Split hero Jerry Nadler. There are some delightful whacks at well-deserving figures such as “Vichy Bill” Kristol, founder of the True Conservative Party, which upholds the tradition of defeat with dignity in the PRNA, winning up to 0.4% of the vote and already planning to rally the stalwart aboard its “Ahoy: Cruising to Victory in 2036!” junket.

The story ends with a suitable bang, leaving the question of “what next?” While People's Republic was a remarkably plausible depiction of the situation after the red-blue divide split the country and “progressive” madness went to its logical conclusion, this is more cartoon-like, but great fun nonetheless.

Posted at March 27, 2020 16:48