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An Ill Wind

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by Kevin J. Anderson & Doug Beason


This is the third collaboration between Anderson and Beason, and if this is any indication of the quality of their work, well, I won’t be reading any more.  This is flat out a bad book, and I cannot in any good conscience recommend it to anyone.

The premise of the story is interesting. When an oil tanker spill sits cargo in San Francisco Bay, the man tasked with cleaning it up uses a microbe designed by a scientist dying of leukemia to eat up the oil. The problem is that the microbe not only consumes all material made from oil (plastics included), but it can be spread by air.  Soon, the world is paralyzed when all fuels and plastics are consumed.  This is an interesting concept, but the novel itself is just plain bad writing.

First, the characters are rather one dimensional and flat. They are good or bad with no shades of grey. The “villain” who causes the spill is a malevolent individual with no concept of good or bad. He goes his merry way without any degree of empathy or remorse. The Air Force Brigadier General  who somehow takes over the defense of the Southwest is the epitome of the mindless, ruthless military man who has no concept of serving the citizens.  His sergeant is equally a mindless automatron without any human qualities.

Second, the coincidences are just too farfetched to accept. For example, in this period when modern transport has basically disappeared, somehow, the person who caused the spill in San Francisco manages to run into the captain of the tanker hundreds of miles away in in the middle of the desert in Arizona.  Coincidences are a staple of writing novels, but the coincidences in this book are really too much to believe.

Third, the book is just too full or both factual errors and improbabilities.  I could list hundred of examples, but I will deal with only a few here as illustrations. In the book, the shotguns and weapons of non-military personal don’t work or even explode because of a lack of lubricant (the military has a special, non-petroleum-based lubricant for their weapons).  However, this would not be the case.  Even dry, a shotgun would not explode in the shooter’s face.  At worst, an automatic weapon would seize up. Shotguns and single shot rifles would pretty much fire forever until rust took over.

The book assumes weather patterns would disperse the microbe evenly throughout the world in an extremely short period of time. This would not be the case. There would be uneven spread, and as a biological agent, it would have to reproduce and grow to be able to consume all the petroleum-based products in the world.

Nuclear power would be pretty much unaffected, at least for some time. Overpressure and sealings would keep the microbe out, and ceramics and wires used in the transmission of power would not be affected.

The military characters were a farce. Somehow, the US Air Force becomes  SS Storm Troopers, both skilled at ground combat, but ready to break ranks at the slightest degree of resistance. With all due respect to our Air Force, except for some small units, they don’ really learn much about ground combat. Their forte is in the air and in space. The general’s female admin sergeant becomes some sort of emotionless Rambo, ready to kill at the slightest provocation.

I could go on, but I won’t. This just really is a bad, bad book.  I don’t recommend it to anyone.


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