L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

16 March 2008 Blog Home : March 2008 : Permalink

The Last Centurion

We don't know who will be the Democratic presidential candidate for 2008 yet. But at present I'd say there is a 50% chance that it will be a Mrs H Clinton. If not it will be a Mr B Obama who may in fact be less cluefull in terms of things like the economy, the military etc. than his rival.

Neither of them, and certainly not Mrs C, will like John Ringo's book due out in September - the Last Centurion. It is available electronically now for a mere $15 as a Baen eARC, which is why I'm writing about it, but I think the timing of its release is going to throw it right into the maelstrom of the 2008 US presidential election. Somehow I doubt this is accidental.

The book is likely to be very controversial. John Ringo (unconvincingly IMO) puts the main action in the book occuring in 2019 and the year or two following but the sums don't really add up. It makes a lot more sense for the book to be set in about 2011, that is year 3 of a Mrs H Clinton presidency elected this year than for one starting in 2016. This is merely the first reason why I predict that the book will not go down well in certain circles. I'm going to try not to give spoilers so let's just say that "President Warwick", who is a female democratic party president and who bears more than a passing reseblence to the aforementioned Mrs H Clinton, is portrayed to be less than competant in her ability to manage global crises and to be, well to put it mildly, ideologically rigid and doctrinaire even when the ideology is shown to contrary to the facts on the ground.

As I say, however, that is merely the first point of controversy. The second and third are the nature of the crises that the world faces. Crisis one is a human H5N1 pandemic originating in China but quickly spreading worldwide. This crisis doesn't sound too controversial, plenty of people have warned about the dangers of this, and plenty have speculated that a country like the PRC is likely to try and conceal the extent of an outbreak instead of coming clean. This was, after all, pretty much what happened with the SARS outbreak a few years back. No the controversy here is the likely fatality rates and the reactions of governments and individuals to the pandemic. Again spoilers will be omitted but neither socialized healthcare nor urban liberals/progressives are depicted in a good light. If she were to read it I would expect Polly Pot Toynbee to have a stroke and I have no doubt that the liberal chattering classes will waste no time in rejecting this part of the book as being pure fantasy not backed up by any hard data.

The other crisis is going to be even more controversial. Ringo posits that anthropogenic global warming is a myth and that the earth's climate is strongly correlated with solar output. Furthermore he suggests that the sun's output is significantly reduced in an abrupt fashion and that shortly thereafter the earth cools by a few degrees in the space of a year. The first part of this is not part of the "consensus" on global warming but is a hypothesis that has some reasonable evidence and science behind it. The second part is something that we may discover the truth of this summer seeing as the current solar activity is a lot lower than it used to be a year or two back.

Then there is Mr Ringo's hero/narator - Bandit Six. Bandit Six is a Minnesotan farm boy who has joined the army as an officer and is posted in the sandbox when the story opens. He's in Iran as it happens - sometime in the next decade the US invades Iran in much the same was as Bush invaded Iraq and with an equally mixed outcome - but I'm not convinced that the story would change much if he were in Iraq. Bandit Six is pretty much every progessive's stereotypical hate: he likes the military, is politically conservative, has no interest in political correctness, etc. etc. He also sounds like quite a lot of military bloggers which suggests to me that while he may in some respects be a stereotype he is also very much the real thing and not a strawman construct.

This is, in fact, a big reason why I like this book. A lot of the characters and scenes depicted in the book are highly plausible. Yes John Ringo may occasionally overegg the cake but for the most part what he writes seems pretty reasonable given the background. I don't know how I or my neighbours, let alone the whole world, would actually react to a one-two whammy of bird flu plus drastic global cooling but when you look at how people handle other smaller disasters what John Ringo describes sounds likely and this includes everything from the systemic SNAFUs to the local behaviours. It is also what is going to get up the noses of the liberal chattering classes because it lays out in detail why the statist big government approach to crisis management and the related dependancy/entitlement culture of welfare is going to break under the strain of such major events.

So here's the deal. The Republican / conservative / libertarian reader is going to love this book. If Liberal Fascism can sell then this book should too as it is, in may ways, the fictional equivalent of it. Likewise the liberal / progressive / Democrat reader, not to mention 99% of Europeans, all Arabs and everyone involved in the UN, are going to hate it. And by hate I mean pretty much get to the book-burning, lynch mobbing, fatwa stage of hate.

Which is going to be just great given the likely level of "debate" in the US presidential campaign when the book is released.