Oil tycoons in West Texas spend decades planning and building a survivalist underground bunker in Andersen’s debut novel.
Chip Faraday has become well-known in the tech world for his management skills and his talent at spotting trends, but he has just blown a deal in China and is unsure of his next move. He is approached by Jack Barnett Jr., son to an Irish immigrant who became an oil baron, and decides to give him a call. Decades earlier, Jack Barnett Sr. and a Russian immigrant named Robert Barzinsky spent many years in Texas amassing enormous wealth from oil and land acquisitions. As arch conservatives, they despised government bureaucracy and all of its snooping, while the surly Robert wasn’t liked by many Texans: “Most people hated Robert and for good reason, he was not nice to most people.” Their business acumen made them the stuff of legends, but their paranoia led them to build a 3-million-square-foot bunker. Now, with Robert and Jack Sr. deceased, Barnett Jr., who is gravely ill, wants Faraday to join their secretive survivalist group, Project NewLand, Code name: Zeus. When Barnett Jr. dies, the torch is passed to Faraday. Suddenly, the world faces a catastrophe that puts Project NewLand to its ultimate test. Andersen’s novel has elements of historical and dystopian fiction, with flashbacks telling compelling rags-to-riches tales about American immigrants. The backstories are lengthy, however, and when the narrative moves exclusively to the present, there is a great deal of general talk about logistics, management, and career prospects of many different characters, peppered with the occasional jab at liberalism and the interesting addition of an outspoken woman from the Bronx. The latter half of the book starts to sound like an endless business meeting, and when the major crisis finally hits, it’s anticlimactic.
Starts promisingly with the launch of an oil empire but sputters in the dystopian, detail-laden second half.