In Roberts’ post-apocalyptic debut, the Lang family survives in a disintegrating United States occupied by the Chinese military.
The year 2016 sees America crumbling. With the Bill of Rights suspended, aerial drones target citizens by presidential order. Consumerism and debt have ruined the economy, while college graduates don’t know the meaning of self-sufficiency. What better time for the Chinese to invade and collect their due? When it happens, everyone is caught unawares except Cliffson Lang, his wife, Jean, and their friend Monk. Living in Oregon, they farm their own produce and raise chickens. They work hard (as do their sons, Zach and Dustin Lang), surviving within their means. They aren’t affected when the government cuts aid programs (to repay the Chinese) and rioters start destroying cities around the country. But shortly thereafter, the Chinese set off nuclear bombs in Washington, D.C., San Diego and Dallas. The invaders then begin collecting gold and silver from traumatized Americans nationwide. Monk and the Langs keep their spirits up, staying informed via ham radio about militia resistance to the Chinese and the carnage created by roving gangs. Debut author Roberts convincingly brings this hellish future to life. He begins the novel with frequent, sumptuous depictions of nature: “Scattered gray clouds rode across the sky on a chill zephyr born of winter, while a cool breeze played hide and seek throughout last year’s raspberry canes.” Such beauty allows the full weight of later atrocities to hit the reader: “Disfigured by Dustin’s shotgun blasts, the bodies left behind dark stains and chunks of flesh on the grass.” But between the peace and violence, there’s an endless barrage of political proselytizing. Roberts uses Cliffson to not only complain about modernity and its corrupting influence, but to vilify anyone who doesn’t share his mindset: “A brilliant spring sun was out and so were the witless, faddish people always there to chase the latest trend—each of them as brain dead as the next, Cliffson thought.” If readers can accept that, a solid action narrative awaits.
Morals and bullets fly in this cranky action thriller.