You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Without realizing it, Hiram and Levi had been in training for the Collapse most of their lives. They learned lessons in shop class, Boy Scouts, Renaissance Fairs, and all night sessions of Dungeons and Dragons. The began to receive instruction and train in earnest after television went all digital. On the unmonitored analog channels, 'Casters began sending out coded messages buried in the static, saying what to expect and how to prepare. Other messages were hidden in the wild style graffiti covering the walls of their college town somewhere in North Texas. When the Collapse occurred, Hiram and Levi would be among the prepared. The 'Casts had helped them assemble The Book, a sort of army training manuel for the survival of your Group. Following instructions Hiram and Levi already have established their Place in the country and stocked it with Salvage, i.e. stolen stuff. They have planned an escape route.

I was reading Noise on Black Friday. I took a break after about fifty pages, turned on the computer to check email, and saw first thing the videos of ambulances driving the fallen away from Best Buys in Colorado. Then I read the story of the woman at the California Wall Mart who pepper sprayed her fellow shoppers to protect her xbox console. And all morning I had thought I was reading a novel.

What Hiram and Levi have been learning, what they have assembled in The Book, are lessons in ruthlessness. They will not be victims. They will take advantage of chaos. They will regard all those outside their Group as enemies, and they will neutralize them when necessary. They neutralize some unsuspecting National Guardsmen who have been called in to discourage the turmoil breaking out in malls and on the campus. They steal the NG's Humvee with its 50 caliber machine gun. It comes in handy when dealing with disgruntled suburban males who don't like the look of what's going on. Hiram and Levi pick up some followers before their escape from the city, but this crowd, only partially trained in the disciplines of the 'Casts, prove to be a mixed blessing. When one thirteen year old is caught trying to escape -- he wants to go home to his parents across town -- he is tied to a porch railing, judged, and neutralized. The Group has done the right thing. The kid knew too much.

Noise is an unsettling read. It follows its relentless logic for just 200 pages and gets the survivors of Hiram and Levi's group to their Place of safety. I am one of those movie watchers who always wonder why characters hit guards and bad guys over the head instead of killing, I mean, neutralizing them, but I also know there is always payback time. Much of what is in The Book makes an awful sort of sense, given the situation. But nobody's long-term prospects look good.

Get the message?

1 comment:

  1. yikes! sounds pretty good.

    - Thor