Children of the Sun

Well more vegetative moments.

There are Triffids in our garden, they are waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting passerby. There is one quite spectacular specimen. He is masquerading as an onion but I know if I am suddenly struck blind by a passing comet he will pounce with his poisonous whip and I will become fertilizer.

There really is no hope the end is nigh and we shall all become mulch for the greater vegetable masses. So what was supposed to be an addendum to my salad is now a dangerous beast lurking amongst the benign onions.

The real reasons of course is the bizarre fluctuations of temperature that we have had, my poor onion thinks he has been in the ground for two years and it’s time to flower. He is confused, fearful and ready to blossom, this is a perfect storm of impatience, I fear he may injure the dog.

 

 

Right to Decide

So this week I bought a Jeep Wrangler, well the head gasket went in the 4Runner and the radiator was cracked in two places, all the hoses were leaking, the A.C. no longer worked and it was going to cost more than the vehicle was worth to fix it. So we had to go car shopping, something a little larger than my wife’s Corolla so we can get everyone in and go camping, hopefully with OK gas mileage. Well that never worked out, it’s smaller in some ways than the 4Runner, has the same gas mileage and now we have a car payment.

It’s the four door version so on some level and in some quarters is not a true jeep but what the heck some people think Coors light is beer. Yes I know it’s a gas guzzling monster and in this time of high gas prices and green awareness it was a bad decision, I really should have bought the hybrid, or the focus. I know it’s loud on the freeway and the soft top will probably leak during rainstorms, it will be cold in the winter and I will be judged by the people I pass, or more likely am passed by, but I have to admit I couldn’t resist. The whole concept appealed to my inner child, or mid-life crisis, that and finally coming to realize I was never going to buy a Land Rover Defender when a ’93 was going for $32,000. So I bought a Jeep. Here it is in the dealership.

Then all of a sudden you realize that there are all sorts of things you need to do, it’s needs a small lift maybe, new tires, an antenna that is not 5 feet long and distracting while driving, a roof rack, harness for the dog and on and on and on.

Buyers remorse set in until the first time I took the top down, it only took an hour to get down due to inexperience and the confusing directions in the manual. Don’t ask about the confusion putting it up. I had never driven a convertible before. It’s fun to drive and of course people wave to you. Then you start to rationalize, I can go 4 wheeling, back country driving will be more exciting with the top down than it was in the 4Runner, but ultimately it’s just plain fun, and it didn’t leak in the rain storm and the heater is powerful so it’s not cold.Then there is the fact that when society collapses due to zombies, pandemic disease, Triffids and bright comets then we are already 50%  better equipped to escape the town on the back roads of Oregon, as long as it is not an EM pulse. Now I have to find the survival kit to be fully prepared.

There is of course the reading, constant and at times potentially intrusive but as I will no longer be able to afford to leave our house in the new vehicle because of the car payment it’s good there are lots of books.

The last couple of weeks have seen the end of Inverted World by Christopher Priest which was an interesting account of a city travelling out of sync with it’s world. It also seemed to be about imperialism and it’s affect on indigenous populations, especially when they are faced with a more technologically advanced society. It was a fun read Priest definitely writes with skill as he should considering some of the scathing criticism he directs at others.

The biggest surprise however for me was Lloyd Biggle Jr’s Monument. This was a book filled with humor and wisdom and managed to pack a lot into 200 or so pages. Again Biggle is a new author to me and I was pleasantly surprised at how well he writes. Written in 1974 the story like Inverted World deals with a more advanced societies impact on an indigenous population. In Monument however the natives are lucky enough to have a Plan handed down to them by their Langri. This is a story with a message but it is delivered with humor and compassion, there are also a few plot twists that make for a great book.

 

I also managed to begin Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Icerigger is an old favorite that has been waiting to be reread and I am looking forward to it, especially as I have the other two books in the trilogy now. I have been looking for a reasonably priced copy of Snow Crash and finally found one in a Goodwill store for $2.99. Snow Crash is also this months modern read at the Classic Science fiction Yahoo group,  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ClassicScienceFiction/, were it has already caused a little stir because of it’s stylistic elements and Stephenson’s writing style. I have enjoyed all the Stephenson books I have read so far, the Baroque Cycle may be one of the greatest series of books I have ever read, but he can at times be a bit too clever for his own good.

All in all it’s been a good couple of weeks, the garden is coming along well although I think I only planted onions and beans this year for some reason. It was also a reasonably good haul at used bookstores this last couple of weeks which have filled up the space on the fireplace. The ax is obviously in case of zombie attack,  the gold piggy bank is the book fund and the Costa Rica book is for Michelle and Ben who go to Costa Rica next summer and are super excited about it as they should be.

Social Alliance

Passing time reading books is one of the pleasures of my life. I have a hard time sitting still so it can be a challenge just to sit down, the one thing that can make it happen is the re-reading of an old favorite. I never had this difficulty earlier in life, easily finding time to read, now I have to make time and too often that time is at the end of the day when I am tired and not at my best to pay attention to the  book as well as I should.

The Day of the Triffids is the book I think I have read the most over the years, more than Lord of the Rings and more than any Heinlein although Tunnel In The Sky must come close. I have owned nine different copies and they have either fallen apart or been given away to other deserving owners. The book grabbed my attention from the start and has all 20 times I have been on the journey with Bill and Josella. From the age of about 12 I began every summer holiday with reading it, it was how I knew summer was here in a way, I also began every spring with Meddle by Pink Floyd and ended the Summer with Heavy Horses by Jethro Tull, so as you can see I was a child of traditions. Every year I wondered what life would be like without all the clutter of society, of course it would be a safe life so I could catch up on the reading and listening to all those things I’d missed.

Day of the Triffids and The Death of Grass by John Christopher are the best examples of what Brian Aldiss called the “cosey catastrophe” were life was dramatically changed but the survivors were able to have enough left over from the past to continue to live comfortably. There is little violence in Day of the Triffids  that is motivated by greed apart form the group in Brighton and the red haired thug who later joins them. It is really a book about ideas on how society would need to respond to adversity to survive. The Death of Grass has much more violence, ending in the ultimate betrayal in a sense in order to survive. This betrayal was repeated in Darin Bradley’s Noise which is a more modern take on the collapse and a good example of the direction this genre has taken.

Gone are the contemplative arguments on the need for leisure time and multiple wives, no longer do character’s agonize over taking what they need in the face of collapse and predatory plants are replaced by zombies lurking in the dark corners of the garden. It is probably a case of genre stories reflecting the society they are written in. Post-war England of ration cards and reasonable behavior and doing what is necessary no longer exists. The world Wyndham and Christopher wrote about in the 50’s  has changed to a much more dark world.

Zelazny saw this in Damnation Alley in 67 with his character Hell Tanner having to kill or be killed to survive in the post-nuclear wasteland. Cormac McCarthy’s the Road is a bleak novel of everything gone and predation being the only way of surviving and constant movement being the only way of staying safe. All these books emphasize the individual or the small group/family unit rather than an attempt to rebuild we have survival as the goal. This is similar to Earth Abides when Ish realizes all he can do for his descendants is give them the necessary skills to feed themselves and in the long run their ancestors will rebuild. Martin does have hope in Earth Abides but it is the long view.

I still remember those Summers of laying on the grass and hoping for the end of the world so I could read all those books and not have to go back to school in six weeks. Having read more images of collapse now as an adult I don’t necessarily think I want to be around without a bunker, enough food and plenty of heavy duty weaponry so I can be safe and read.

This last few weeks reading has been:

Day of The Triffids-John Wyndham

Who Fears of Death-Nnedi Okorafor

Deathworld 1,2  and 3- Harry Hasrrison

Inverted World-Christopher Priest still in progress.

All these books are stories of humanity attempting to overcome the challenges of it’s world, whether  that is man made, natural or the adversity of a belligerent indigenous wild life and population. It’s been a couple of weeks of armchair survivalism.