Monday, October 3, 2011

Review: Selection Event by Wayne Wightman

Summary: In an isolation experiment, Martin Lake had been below-ground for fourteen months and two weeks. He came up on May 30, Wednesday, 11:35 AM. He discovered that civilization had folded its arms across its breast, closed its eyes, and ceased.

When natural selection wipes the slate, there are always a few survivors. Unfortunately, nature does not select for beauty or intelligence.

Selection Event follows in the tradition of Earth Abides and The Road. In the aftermath of the catastrophe, this is what happens next. People open zoos, sabotage dams, and in a final nihilistic fling, several countries have a small nuclear exchange of greetings.

It is into this that Martin Lake awakens and has to find his way.

My Thoughts: This is a nice, tightly plotted drama that could not have existed without The Stand (my sweet baby!), but quickly tears off and becomes its own thing. We rotate among a cast of several characters, chief among them Martin, his dog Isha, and a biker afflicted with bipolar depression named Diego, who appears to have been based upon one of Wightman's own friends. (In which case he clearly cared for his friend a great deal, because Diego is more sharply and lovingly drawn than any other character.) Our first encounter with real danger within the book is a Kurtz-like cult leader who shoots his followers up with heroin in order to keep them under control, rapes and murders women, and uses children as spies. Right off the bat, we know we ain't in Kansas any longer. The writing style is clean, and fans of apocadramas will find plenty of meat in one of the great pleasures of the genre: getting to build the world back up after completely smashing it down. I enjoyed seeing the different family structures that can take place when you don't have to please anyone but yourself (and presumably not hurt others).

Issues: religious characters aren't drawn with a lot of depth. Martin is occasionally a bit of a naive twit (not eating meat makes sense in The Jakarta Pandemic, as that book was talking about infrastructure collapse rather than complete depopulation; there were a couple of points in this book where I was convinced that the entire next generation was doomed to die of marasmus or kwashiorkor), but by the end it's in a generally endearing way.

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