This is my first survival literature review and is for Terri Blackstock’s Last Light, the first in her Restoration Series.

In my intro to reviewing survival literature I talked about two kinds of survival stories. This book is a regular people story.

The Survival Scenario: EMP

The book starts with what appears to be an EMP attack. Everything electronic stops working, planes fall out of the sky, phones don’t work, cars don’t work.

But this is an EMP attack on steroids. Even when you turn on something electronic that wasn’t effected they break. Including things like generators.

The story centers around one family, the Bannings, in Birmingham Alabama. They are an upper middle class suburban family with 3 kids. The oldest Dani, has just graduated college and landed a job as a reporter in Washington DC. Her and her father have just landed back in Birmingham when the lights go out.

The Book as a Book

The book is well written. Once I started reading it I couldn’t stop, which to me is the sole arbiter of how good a book is. The characters are well formed, if stupid on a number of levels, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The plot has some interesting a subtle twists and turns. This is very much about a suburban neighborhood. There are no external threats in this book, but a very interesting murder mystery from the beginning.

If you go looking for the book, look in the Christian fiction section. I don’t think the book is all that Christian – yes the main characters are Christian and at one point in the book they decided to allow their faith to guide their post-apocalyptic lifestyle. Patriots characters are just as Christian, but since the book didn’t have a Christian publisher it doesn’t end up in the getto.

I don’t know if this is a mark of good writing, that is can evoke such a strong reaction, or bad, because I hated the character so. I hated one of the characters so much by the end of the book, I probably won’t read anymore in the series. About 3/4 of the way through the book I was hoping Dani would just get herself killed and put us out of our misery.

There is also very good social understanding in this book. Terri deals well with how people interact with their suburban neighbors, whom they hardly know. She deals with teenage rebellion which is a luxury we can afford in an affluent society. Issues of race were also well done with people on both sides understanding their own prejudices and trying to deal with them correctly.

Survival Lessons

This book taught me a couple of things.

Water

The suburb the Bannings live has its own lake, so they have a source of water. They don’t talk about purifying it much, but it is a source. This means that even though they didn’t prepare, they did have water.

But they didn’t have a way to transport and store it. They had to make daily trips to the lake and at first had nothing to put water in. Water is heavy and you need some kind of cart to carry it.

I live in a suburb called the livable forest and there are a number of streams within walking distance, but I wouldn’t want to have carry even 5 gallons – which I consider the amount one person needs for one day in the Houston heat – back to my house. I need a wheeled something, even a kids wagon would help. I’m thinking a gardening cart with 4 wheels. And of course I need something to hold that water in to put in the cart.

Bicycles

There is quite a bit of travel that happens in the book. There are often discussions of horses in a post-apocalyptic worlds, but the thing that fascinated me was how incredibly useful a bicycle could be. People could get most places in Birmingham on a bike. At one point someone road from Washington DC to Birmingham on a bike (over 700 miles).

If you think about it bikes are a great multiplier.

I generally think the average person could walk 20 miles a day. Maybe more. A runner can run a marathon in 4 hours, so a person should be able to walk one in 8-12 hours.

But a bike will multiply that by at least 3. The equivalent for bicycles of a marathon is a century, which is 100 miles. This guy did 2465 miles across America in 45 days. Avg 55 miles/day, longest day 126 miles.

Most people have bicycles, few have horses.

Conclusion

It was a good well written book about normal people and what they did after the grid went down. I came away thankful that my kids were not as big a brats as the Bannings were. 🙂 And I know it is true because after Hurricane Ike we spend a week grid down, and my boys never complained or snuck off.

There are some good ideas about how you can deal with grid down situations even if you didn’t prepare, and you can see how somethings you could do now would make a big difference.