Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Big Dark by Rodman Philbrick

It's New Year's Eve and everyone in Charlie's small town in New Hampshire is watching the northern lights.  After a particularly bright flare, all the power suddenly goes out - even batteries don't function anymore.  With the town cut off from the rest of the world and no power available, problems quickly start to arise.  Among the first is just keeping warm in the middle of winter but people also have to think about eating and Charlie's mom needs her diabetes medication to stay healthy.  Basic survival is further complicated by the threats coming from local bigot and survivalist Webster Bragg and his sons who are trying to declare martial law with only the part time police officer standing up to them. When Charlie's mom only has a few days of medicine left, he decides to ski the 50 miles south to the city to get her resupplied from the hospital there.

I spent the first several chapters trying to remember the name of the TV show that was on a few years ago where all the power went out and people had to survive so it was distracting to think about which story came first and who was being copied.  (The TV show came first.) Once I dealt with that distraction, I just wasn't caught up by this story at all.  It should've been an exciting, thoughtful examination of our dependency on power and how humans react to crises.  Instead, the excitement never came.  There were lots of events that kept the story moving, but they were presented in such a matter of fact, non-exciting way that I was never very invested.  Even the bad Bragg family wasn't fleshed out much other than that they were racists and survivalists.  A few in the town sided with them but the majority didn't.  Yet they also didn't do anything to help out the police officer who was willing to take a bullet for them.  And then the ending was SO convenient that the aftermath of the old west-style showdown was never followed up on.  Bland throughout.

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