Monday, July 28, 2008

Review of John Ringo's "The Last Centurion"

In some ways this book reminds me of Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" but amped up as only John Ringo can. For those who have read any of Ringo's previous books it is not secret what he thinks of politics and liberal politics in particular. Bandit Six, the hero of TLC, is "Kildar's" Mike Harmon without the non-family friendly sexual view point. If you haven't read any of Ringo's previous books this is not for the weak hearted liberal in the family.

The book basically looks at what the world would be like in ten year if three disasters occur almost simultaneously, some reviewer would argue that it is only two but the miss what may be the book's primary point. The disasters are, in order, a pandemic, environmental and political. The book is written as a review of Bandit Six's experiences as if he was writing his journal's after the fact. Much, maybe way too much, of the book deals with facts. Facts about pandemics, about the way we handle disease control in a pandemic. About global warming and how politics has adopted it as a party issue and about political leadership or the lack thereof.

The book can be pretty dull at points but those points are critical to the story line and if they aren't understood because the reader hasn't heard them before the story doesn't work very well. So it is pretty important to pay attention to the dull parts as well as the rest.

Another major part of the story is the way blogs are, and will likely continue, to affect the news media. It also lays out what might happen if the military was to get serious about using blogs and the access they provide to the public to counter-act much of the misinformation that the media presents, aka media propaganda.

In a large part the story is like much of the Kildar novels, a fantasy about what the world might be like if people with the power to do so would do what makes sense rather than what the rules say they should do. It also has a lot to say about trust, although I think a lot of this falls under the heading of personal responsibility.

You'll notice I haven't really said much about the actual story. That is because I don't like to read reviews that lay out the whole story for me because it takes away much of the pleasure I have in reading a book myself. But for those who prefer a review to actually tell you what the book is actually about I will put that below. For the rest of you stop reading here and go get the damn book!
Paper version here and electronic version here.
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Bandit Six is the son of a Minnesota farmer who joins the military and is a captain in Iran in the year 2019. We have successfully invaded Iran and are at about the stage in Iran at this point as we are in Iraq today. Then the avian flu mutates into a form transmittable between humans. Luckily the military identifies this early on and the military is immunized non-voluntarily with a non-certified fully effective vaccine. The rest of the world gets immunized on a purely voluntary basis depending on the individual country's health and governmental policies primarily with a less effective, but certified vaccine. Death rates are severe (30-60% depending on many factors). How the immunization program is handled is much of the first part of the book.

Coincidentally the sun's solar output (OK that is probably redundant but I want to be as clear as possible about what's happening) declines. This causes global cooling while most of the world is still worrying about the effects of global warming. So there are the two natural disasters that all reviewers have agreed on. People die, so many that much of the infrastructure that keeps our personal worlds going falls apart. Food, fuel, and all goods are no longer distributed or produced for the most part. This of course causes the economy to tank a but only the government seems to be very focused on the economy.

Because of this breakdown US forces are withdrawn globally to return to the US to deal with the disaster. Except for a few who are left to safeguard the equipment and there is a LOT of equipment. Bandit Six is one of those left behind as the supply officer in charge of all the equipment left behind in Iran along with one company of mechanized infantry and a bunch of Nepalese contract workers who have no transportation home. A good bit of the action story is about the ordeal Farmer's Freaks go through to make it home. Due to an intrepid group of reports from Rubert Murdoch's news staff (read over zealous idiots) this ordeal is widely reported and the Freaks become national heroes. The way the reporting of the story is managed by Bandit Six is a prime part of the story and leads to the final chapters of the book.

The last half of the book deals with what I consider the third disaster (which actually is also part of the first half on the immunization program). The third disaster comes in the form of a Democrat women president named Warrick, though mostly known as The Bitch through most of the book. Warrick bears an uncanny resemblance to Hilary Clinton, but I am sure that is just coincidence. Basically every wrong decision that could be made by a president is made up to and including misuse of powers to keep the office of president.

Of course in the end good triumphs and the forces of evil, Democrats, are soundly defeated. But the story is really interesting and richly rewarding.


At 10:40 AM , Anonymous Ryan Ross said...

Godspeed to you my friend.


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