Friday, 26 July 2013

Sam Selvon's The Lonely Londoners

Sam Selvon
The Lonely Londoners
Alan Wingate, 1956; Penguin Modern Classics, 2006

The field of postcolonial studies ostensibly tells the story of European imperialism from the viewpoint of the colonized. While this is a perfectly valid area of study, it is used in Western academic circles to advance a radically egalitarian agenda. The literature serves to embolden and cultivate revanchismamong the descendants of former colonial subjects and to burden white students with a sense of collective guilt for the evils of empire.

This has multiple benefits for the Left: It facilitates the colonization of Western countries by colored settlers from the former colonies; it politicizes these settlers, encouraging them not to recognize the indigenous authority and to press for accommodation; and it lowers moral resistance to these processes among the whites.

But it does not have to be this way. We, too, can—and indeed should—provide our own perspectives on this literature. Otherwise, for lack of opposition, the Leftist argument wins by default. As this review will show, even a book written by an “other,” from his perspective, offers much that is helpful to us.

Sam Selvon was a Trinidadian author, best known for his novel, The Lonely Londoners. Born in San Fernando in 1923, he was the son of Indian immigrants from Madras, though his paternal grandmother was Anglo-Scottish. In the 1950s, at the age of 15, he moved to London, where he lived for 20 or so years, before moving to Canada and, finally, returning to Trinidad.

Published in 1956, The Lonely Londoners was the first novel to tell the story of the daily lives of the West Indian (Afro-Caribbean) immigrants of the “Windrush generation,” so named after the British troopship, MV Empire Windrush, which in June 1948 brought nearly 500 Jamaicans to the United Kingdom. This migration was made possible by the British Nationality Act of 1948, passed during Clement Attlee’s Labour government, which granted British citizenship and full rights of entry to all people living in Commonwealth countries. At that time the British government was encouraging mass migration to fill shortages in the labor market arising from the losses of World War II. The Lonely Londoners is an important book in the field of postcolonial studies.

It is not, however, a diatribe of post-colonial ressentiment. It is an amusing novel, written in creolised English, about the often comical adventures of a handful of Afro-Caribbean characters.

The story begins on a foggy, winter evening, with the Trinidadian Moses Aloetta. A veteran settler, he had been asked to meet an immigrant from Trinidad arriving that day at Waterloo Station, about whom he knows nothing, except his name: Henry Oliver. At the station, he meets Tolroy, another Jamaican settler, who is there to greet his mother, also arriving that evening. As Tolroy scans the passengers getting off the train, he is in for a surprise:
A old woman who look like she would dead any minute come out of carriage, carrying a cardboard box and a paper bag. When she get out the train she stand up there on the platform as if she confuse. Then after she stand a young girl come, carrying a flour bag filled up with things. Then a young man wearing a widebrim hat and a jacket falling below the knees. Then a little boy and a little girl, then another old woman, tottering so much a guard had was to help she get out the train. (p. 8)
Tolroy is livid.
‘Oh Jesus Christ,’ Tolroy say, ‘what is this at all?’
‘Tolroy,’ the first woman say, ‘you don’t know your own mother?’
Tolroy hug his mother like a man in a daze, then he say: ‘But what Tanty Bessy doing here, ma? and Agnes and Lewis and the two children?’
‘All of we come, Tolroy,’ Ma say. ‘This is how it happen: when you write home to say you getting five pounds a week Lewis say, “Oh God, I going England tomorrow.” Well Agnes say she not staying at home alone with children, so all of we come.’
‘And what about Tanty?’
‘Well you know how old your Tanty getting, Tolroy, is a shame to leave she alone to dead in Kingston with nobody to look after she.’
‘Ah, you see what I tell you?’ Tanty say to the mother, ‘you see how ungrateful he is? I would go back to Jamaica right now,’ and she make as if she going back inside the train. (p. 9)
Tanty, of course, is staying, as are all the others, and Tolroy, staggering in dismay and disbelief, now has a troop of relatives in London with nowhere to stay.

Soon Moses’ charge arrives:
Moses watch Henry coming up the platform, and he have a feeling that this couldn’t be the fellar that he come to meet, for the test [guy] have on a old grey tropical suit and a pair of watchekong [canvas-soled tennis shoes] and no overcoat or muffler or gloves or anything for the cold, so Moses sure is some test who living in London a long, long time and accustom to the beast winter. Even so, he really had to feel the fellar, for as the evening advancing it getting colder and colder and Moses stamping he foot as he stand up there.
The fellar, as soon as he see Moses, walk straight up to him and say, ‘Ah, I bet you is Moses!’
Moses say, ‘Yes.’
‘Ah,’ Henry say, looking about the desolate station as if he in an exhibition hall on a pleasant summer evening, Frank did say you would come to meet me in Waterloo. My name Henry Oliver.’
‘You not feeling cold, old man?’ Moses say, eyeing the specimen with amazement, for he himself have on long wool underwear and a heavy fireman coat that he pick up in Portobello Road.
‘No,’ Henry say, looking surprise. ‘This is the way the weather does be in the winter? It not so bad, man. In fact I feeling little warm.’
‘Jesus Christ,’ Moses say. ‘What happen to you, you sick or something?’
‘Who, me? Sick? Ha-ha, you making joke!’
Moses watch the specimen again suspiciously.
‘You must be have on bags of wool under that suit,’ he say. ‘You can’t fool a old test like me.’
‘What you making so much fuss about?’ Henry say, opening his shirt to show bare skin underneath. ‘This is a nice climate, boy. You feeling cold?’
‘Take it easy,’ Moses say, deciding to wait and see how things would develop with this strange character. ‘Get your luggage and we will go. Tonight you could stay by me, but tomorrow I might shift from my room and go upstairs, and I will see if I could fix up with the landlord for you to take my room.’
‘Whenever you ready,’ Henry say.
‘Where your luggage?’
‘What luggage? I ain’t have any. I figure is no sense to load up myself with a set of things. When I start work I will buy some things.’
Now Moses is a veteran, who living in this country for a long time, and he met all sorts of people and do all sorts of things, but he never thought the day would come when a fellar would land up from the sunny tropics on a powerful winter evening wearing a tropical suit and saying that he ain’t have no luggage.
‘You mean you come from Trinidad with nothing?’
‘Well the old toothbrush always in the pocket,’ Henry pat the jacket pocket, ‘and I have on a pair of pyjamas. Don’t worry, I will get fix up as soon as I start work.’ (pp. 12-14).
Moses’ astonishment only grows when he finds that Henry has arrived with only £3 in his pocket, having gambled away £2 on the train:
‘All right Sir Galahad,’ Moses say, ‘Take it easy. London will do for you before long. Come, we will catch the tube as you ain’t have any luggage.’
Thus it was that Henry Oliver Esquire, alias Sir Galahad, descend on London to swell the population by one, and eight and a half months later it had a Galahad junior in Ladbroke Grove and all them English people stopping in the road and admiring the baby curly hair when the mother pushing it in the pram as she go shopping for rations. (p. 15)
That sets the tone for the rest of the novel. Sir Galahad is shown the ropes, and Moses remains the axis around which revolves a small constellation of amiable hustlers. One is Lewis, who gets a job in a factory. Told that his wife is “giving him the horn” while he is at work, he beats her regularly until she files for divorce. Tanty proves the archetypal big black mamma—bossy, loud, proud, nagging, and funny—she eventually persuades—or bullies—the local grocer into extending credit to the entire neighborhood. There is Captain, or Cap, a Nigerian who refuses to work. He swindles landlords out of their rent and his endless white girlfriends fund his food, drink, and cigarettes. And there is the weed-smoking fellow from Barbados, Five Past Twelve, so called because he was darker than midnight. And there is, inevitably, the self-important Harris, who speaks in polished Standard English and tries to be more English than the English:
. . . when he dress, you think is some Englishman going to work in the city, bowler and umbrella, and briefcase tuck under the arm, with The Times fold up in the pocket so the name would show, and he walking upright like if is he alone who alive in the world. Only thing, Harris face black. (p. 103)
Harris, who is status-conscious in an English, middle-class way, worries about how his easy-going, roguish, and nearly uncontrollable peers could reflect badly on him or on the West Indian community as a whole. This they do in short order:  At a “fĂȘte” Harris organizes, where he stresses to the others the importance of being well-behaved on account of his having “distinguished” guests, the others smoke weed, get boisterously drunk, and get into a brawl.

In all cases, the motivation for settling in Britain is economic. Yet, the glamour of life in the Imperial capital is also part of the allure. Once Sir Galahad has found work and has suits in his wardrobe and a white girlfriend, he delights in telling Moses that he is meeting his girl in Piccadilly Circus, or some other iconic, world-renowned location.

Nevertheless, the lives of these “fellars” are grim. They live in dismal, smelly, cramped bedsits, hostels, or small hotels. When they work, they have factory jobs. When they are unemployed, they either hustle, sponge off friends and girlfriends, or go hungry. At one point, Sir Galahad is forced to snatch a pigeon in Kensington Gardens, and Cap survives for a time on the seagull population on the roof above his bedsit.

Most importantly, they are collectively an island, socially cut off from the rest of the metropolis, which is itself a compendium of social islands.
It have people living in London who don’t know what happening in the room next to them, far more the street, or how other people living. London is a place like that. It divide up in little worlds, and you stay in the world you belong to and you don’t know anything about what happening to the other ones except what you read in the papers.
They find the English cold, suspicious, and fearful, and the urban experience of being alone among multitudes is strange to them. So are the subterfuges of employers, landlords, and hoteliers who pretend the job or room they had advertised has already been filled the moment they see a black face. The “fellars” would almost prefer open discrimination, 1950s American style, for at least everyone knows where he stands.
“We only want to get by, we don’t even want to get [along],” says Sir Galahad (p. 77). (The United States, incidentally, is spoken of with fearful awe, as a terrible place where blacks have it extraordinarily bad.) Strangest of all, of course, is the British climate: freezing cold winters, with dark days, long nights, fog, rain, and grey misery, which only aggravates the settlers’ loneliness.

The settlers are baffled by British civism: at the Underground stations, commuters pick up their copies of the Evening Standard and leave payment on the table, even though it is unattended, and stealing would go unpunished. Women have rights, and can take wife-beaters to court. And the British state even provides a safety net for the unemployed—though the incredulous West Indians see this as an invitation to get by without working.

The settlers are also baffled by British democracy: It astonishes them that the public can criticize the government and publicly express all manner of opinions. As they settle in, they soon learn to support Labour and in some cases the Socialist Worker’s Party, but it is clear that British politics are very remote and disconnected from their lives.

The Labour movement, which at the time focused on the working class, seems almost irrelevant to the black settlers. They think in racial terms, and feel that the Marxist class struggle is the white man’s business. Black settlers would say that race was the more important issue.

Though mere shadows, politically, the settlers are well aware of the rising disquiet in British society over their rapidly growing presence:
the English people starting to make rab about how much West Indians coming to the country: this was a time, when any corner you turn, is ten to one you bound to bounce up a spade. In fact, the boys all over London, it ain’t have a place where you wouldn’t find them, and big discussion going on in Parliament about the situation, though the old Brit’n too diplomatic to clamp down on the boys or to do anything drastic like stop them coming to the Mother Country. But big headlines in the papers every day . . . (p. 2)
Not so worried are the Jewish tailors, who are portrayed as eager for business, though some are also described as unscrupulous predators. As in all large, multicultural cities, there is rapacity between ethnic groups.

Thus, the settlers develop a collective identity based on their race and the fact that they are far from home. Every Sunday morning they visit Moses, ask him questions, share a meal, borrow money, smoke, swap stories, keep track of each other, and engage in ‘oldtalk’ about their native islands. Theirs is a tight, racially-based community and support network that transcends nationality.

Perhaps the only point of intersection with British society, besides jobs and money, are the white girls, of which there seem to be plenty for all, a fact spoken about with wonder even in the far-flung tropical islands. We learn that back in Trinidad, Sir Galahad was told, “Boy, it have bags of white pussy in London, and you will eat until you tired” (p. 79). Yet, these girls are treated merely as objects of sex and conquest, or else, as wallets. They—or rather, their legs, which for part of the year are concealed by the winter coats—are mostly spoken about as something that is ogled and coveted from a distance.

Even when white women appear as dates or girlfriends, they are always at one remove—always ‘other,’ something exotic, remote. We learn nothing about their feelings, aspirations, or opinions—not even what they look like, except in one case; we only learn that they are white and English, or French, or German. A white girl may, indeed, be referred to merely as “skin.” They are, essentially, trophies for the black men—they are simple sources of status. Neither do we learn why these white women are so plentifully available; we do learn, however, that the black men were seen as a threat by the natives, and that when a relationship results in inter-racial children, these attract curiosity in the street and taunts in the playground.

Much of this low-intensity native hostility is accepted by the West Indians as a matter of course, but it occasionally perplexes them. At one point, Sir Galahad wonders what it is that West Indians want that whites find it so hard to give; from his perspective, he only wants some upward mobility—not much, but enough to have a roof over his head, food in his cupboard, money in his bank account, and a “frauline” on his arm. Yet, it seems the British would rather see a black man starve than let a pigeon go hungry.

Sir Galahad decides the problem is not him, but the color black. It would seem, then, that this is the first stage in a process that leads to the formation of a Harris: once a black man sees his negritude as a barrier to money and status, he is split, unable physically to escape his negritude, but yearning to become as white as possible in every other way. But Harris tries too hard, has only a superficial understanding of whiteness, and becomes only a very style-conscious dandy with semi-archaic mannerisms and an acute consciousness of how other blacks may expose the lie through stereotypical black behavior.

The long-term prospects for the West Indians are ambiguous. In some cases, despite all the petty miseries they endure, they end up not wanting to go home. In other cases, they neither plan nor want to stay, but find themselves trapped, working dead-end jobs, unable to save enough money to buy return tickets. Time passes and they become accustomed to the strange pattern of life in London, and continue to postpone the decision to go home.

The end of the novel finds Moses reflecting on the decade he has spent in London, nostalgic for his native Trinidad. He knows he must one day return, and fears the prospect of getting old in London, as others have, only to end up alone and destitute, picking up cigarette butts on the platforms of Underground stations. For the unassimilable outsider, immigration ends in disillusionment.

What is perhaps most interesting about The Lonely Londoners is that it offers white readers a good-natured but refreshingly frank account that confirms many of the perceptions whites have of African and West Indian settlers. However, using this merely to point out the truth behind certain stereotypes would be trite.

What is most valuable are the insights Selvon provides into the settler experience in the period after the war. This may be a novel, but it is also a historical document.

First, it is clear that the black settlers of the Windrush generation saw Britain fundamentally as a resource: a wallet, a source of status, and a harem of white girls ready to be conquered. And who could argue with that? The white man had given them the go ahead, and enshrined it in law.

Second, it is clear that white Britons were increasingly alarmed by the influx of Afro-Caribbean settlers. The politicians in the novel are locked in ineffectual parliamentary debate, but many ordinary Britons improvised subtle strategies to keep blacks out of their own local environment. Casual racism, however, was clearly not enough to deter further immigration, let alone encourage emigration.

Third, it is clear that Moses’s disillusionment stems from an inability to fit into a society that, even after a decade of residence, remains strange and unnatural for a black settler. At best he either gets used to it, developing survival strategies, or learns to imitate superficial aspects of it. British men remains remote, inaccessible, incomprehensible, like a creature from another world—an obstacle to be avoided. White women, though seemingly available, are almost completely dehumanized—they remain psychologically at a distance, even while in a relationship.

Finally—and this we can deduce from historical developments after the novel—it is clear that the only long-term solution has been to fundamentally change British society. Once white Leftists realized race opened a new front in their struggle for ever greater equality, and once black settlers realized they had political support among white Leftists, the settlers welcomed the initial concessions and pressed for more, eventually becoming Leftist theorists, campaigners, and legislators in their own right. We have seen across the West how quickly settlers of color master the language of radical egalitarianism, clearly emboldened by the fact that even conservatives dare not speak against it.

None of the above are original conclusions, of course. We have known this for decades. But the fact that our conclusions can all be derived from the recorded experience of black settlers rather than from ‘racist’ speeches by Enoch Powell shows that the arguments of whites who value their own societies are not delusions. Dispossession is unpleasant, and the push for ever more intrusive polices shows the degree to which no one is really happy.

This leads to the ethics of egalitarianism, which is what justifies current race-related policies and also makes it hard to argue against them. Through egalitarianism, we both fail to value our uniqueness and to recognize difference in the Other. The Other is well aware of this difference, but has learned that paying lip service to egalitarianism in our part of the world is a good survival strategy while they are here, since it leads to concessions. These, of course, never end, since, from the Other’s perspective, there is no reason to stop at equality when more is available. Egalitarianism thus perpetuates an exploitative relationship, and transfers privilege from one group onto another. The path to mutual respect and dignity is the recognition of difference, not the pretense of equality.

Friday, 19 July 2013

William R. Forstchen's One Second After

One Second After
William R. Forstchen
(New York: Forge, 2009)

One Second After is a post-apocalyptic novel by American author and military historian, William R. Forstchen, who uses it to explore the likely effects on a small community of a high-altitude nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which causes an intense, high-velocity surge that destroys all electrical and electronic systems.
John Matherson is a professor of history and retired U.S. Army Colonel, with, even if one stretches definitions, only the briefest of combat experience. A widower, he resides on a hill, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, a small town with a 600-student-strong college and a smattering of small shops, which has become a popular Summer hideaway for city dwellers. Matherson has two daughters, Jennifer (12) and Elizabeth (16), the younger of which suffers from type 1 diabetes. Matherson, though not native to the region, is well respected in the community.

The story begins on Jennifer’s 12th birthday, just before the festivities. It is mid-afternoon. Jennifer has brought along a friend from school and other kids have been invited, though they have yet to arrive. Already present is Jen, Matherson’s mother-in-law, who has arrived in her 1959 Ford Edsel. They are all conversing, listening to music, or chatting on the telephone, when all electrical items suddenly die, including Mathersons mobile while he is in mid conversation. He assumes there has been a power outage and that the battery on his mobile died at the same time. A little later Jennifer and her friend notice that all the vehicles along the interstate traversing the landscape half a mile in front of them are motionless, as are the vehicles on the older motorway running alongside the interstate; also noticed is the utter silence: normally, the interstate generated a constant roar in the distance. Matherson finds it strange, but tells the girls there must have been accident that backed up the traffic. They carry on with the birthday celebration as normal, and are only a little disappointed that no one shows up. The power remains out for the rest of the evening.

The ‘power outage’, it turns out, has also taken out Matherson’s car—not a light on the dashboard when the ignition key is turned. The Edsel, however, works. When Matherson drives down to the town, he discovers that all electrical devises, including all motor vehicles, there are also dead. The only exception, besides the Edsel, are a handful of very old cars. With his military experience, Matherson begins to suspect, and eventually realises, that the United States has experienced an EMP attack. The attackers are unknown.

The rest of the novel deals with the consequences. These are staged at increasingly long intervals, each chapter (except Chapter Ten) dealing with a phase in the social breakdown and the assertion of the new reality. We are first shown what happens a day out, a few days out, a week out, two weeks out, a month out, two months out, four months out, and a year out. In the process, we follow the characters as their region descents from a state of taken-for-granted technological civilisation to a Dark Age of barbarism, superstition, and cannibalism. The population is decimated: at first there is chaos, unrest, looting, and murder; when martial law is imposed, some order is restored, but leaders are forced to make hard decisions, which involve allowing many to die of starvation or die of still treatable illnesses in order to save those who have the greatest chance of survival and can perform useful work. Usable vehicles are confiscated. A militia is organised. The golf course is turned into a graveyard. Public executions are re-introduced. Food is rationed, and the rations are progressively reduced and adulterated with sawdust until most are on 900 calories a day, though it is secretly arranged for the militia to get more. All the livestock is eaten. The forests are hunted clean. Folk eat their pets. And so on. Meanwhile, the cities are devastated by gangs and looters, and fall into ruins. Once ball-busting female executives—their skills, like those of most urban professionals, now irrelevant—prostitute themselves for a bowl of soup. Cults and warlords emerge, full of apocalyptic rhetoric and predatory ferocity. Naturally, this entire time Black Mountain is virtually isolated: with no means of communication with the outside world, the federal government is assumed to have collapsed; with no prospect of help, the community is forced to exist behind barricades, beset by all manner of external threats.

Scraps of information make it through to the Edsel’s ancient radio, which runs on vacuum tubes unaffected by the pulse: a radio station—Voice of America—suddenly appears. It seems the EMP was caused by three nuclear weapons launched from cargo ships. There was aid coming from other nations. The attackers remained unidentified. Otherwise, the broadcasts stay upbeat, with talk of reconstruction, recovery, and aid. It all sounds too remote, however, and Matherson remains sceptical.

Matherson, who over time assumes leadership of the community as the established authority dies off, does a good job in keeping his family and Black Mountain together, though Jennifer eventually dies, and Elizabeth becomes pregnant by her 17-year-old boyfriend, who then also dies. His moral authority prevents a full-scale descent into barbarism, though the world has thrust upon him and the survivors a harsh and unforgiving order, where there is no room for sentimentality, waste, or uselessness. Only ruthless pragmatism, adaptability, and resourcefulness can keep a person alive. The best they can do is revive or retrofit a handful of archaic technology—for example, an old switchboard is found, and they manage to get a single telephone line working, with rotary telephones.

By the time novel ends, just a small fraction of the population survives. It is all flint-eyed, dirty, bearded; all skin and bone. Black Mountain is mostly derelict, there being too few people alive or strong enough to remove fallen trees, repair ruined infrastructure, or even bury their dead (they are eventually burnt in pyres). The few antique vehicles still running have their days counted, since the little fuel that remains is increasingly contaminated. In short, conditions have returned, more or less, and at least in the provinces, to those of the frontier and pioneering days.

In the final pages, the U.S. Army makes an appearance, stopping by Black Mountain on their way to Ashville, where they will establish control and coordinate with the rest of the region. Matherson is told that New York was a ghost city, with only 25,000 people surviving on garbage, sealed off from the outside; that the United States has broken up, with the South West and Texas being reclaimed by Mexico, and the East Coast being occupied by Chinese troops, ostensibly there for aid purposes, but clearly with no intention of ever pulling out; that there only 30 million people left in the United  States; and that, for morale purposes, the Voice of America told only part of the story—there was some reconstruction, but the old United States was forever gone, and it was now a matter of salvaging the little that was left. Whoever the attackers were, it made no difference now: the attackers won.

 This is a typical ‘warning’ novel. Its whole purpose is to alert Americans of the price that would be paid should the government not adequately prepare for an EMP attack. In the novel, the United States government knew it as a theoretical possibility, but never acted to harden the nation’s infrastructure against an EMP: there were other, less abstruse, less expensive, more media-friendly issues for politicians to play their popularity contest with, such as global warming and ‘going green’. There is also a criticism of ordinary Americans, who in the novel are deemed to have become soft, spoilt, wasteful, sentimental, and distracted by a society in which superabundance, convenience, automation, medicine, and technology made life easy and comfortable; living in a just-in-time economy and consumer culture they are deemed to be—and the author could hardly be accused of being wrong—entirely unprepared for survival with all the aids and padding they currently enjoy. Indeed, as humans, they have forgotten how to prepare and how to survive. Hence, unsurprisingly, the novel is popular with preppers and survivalists.

Philosophically, the novel articulates is an x-ray of the American conservative mind, which nowadays is, of course, liberal with classical leanings. (That is, that modern conservatives seek to conserve is a vestige of classical liberalism.) This results in occasional corniness and, inevitably, concessions to political correctness. Yet, Forstchen makes an important point, even though his purpose is to awaken Americans as to the degree to which precious liberalism is threatened by complacency, for we are shown that the liberal values with which the United States was framed and upon which American built its conception of itself, would quickly crumble without an infrastructure to sustain them. In the novel, concepts such as fairness, equality, and freedom go out the window, even as the main characters lament it, resist it, and deny it, to each other and to themselves. Many of the decisions they are forced into making are fundamentally unfair, but clearly of absolute necessity; they also distribute resources unequally, the latter going to those thought most likely to bring the greatest chances of survival; and they impose numerous—sometimes fatal—restrictions on the population, which are brutally enforced. The author even highlights how preposterous it is for some to think that being an American is something ontologically special or unique, which makes it impossible for cannibalism or inequity to occur even while society has fallen apart completely. The EMP scenario serves to highlight how the U.S.-led ahistorical pretensions of liberal superiority and uniqueness rest on fragile, man-made structures, physical and cognitive, that can endure only under controlled and artificial conditions. They begin dissolve one second after the props have been knocked down.

The novel is well written and a fast and easy read. The prose is so basic as to be invisible, which keeps the reader focused on the story, though there is a mild slump in the middle due to an over-reliance on dialogue. Also, the minimally developed, largely stereotypical characters arouse nearly zero emotion from the reader, and it becomes annoying when, during the dialogue sections, the reader is told, too often with exactly the same phrase, that no ‘one spoke’ or so-and-so ‘shook his head’. However, the real driver of the story, and what the reader wants to find out, is how the post-EMP scenario unfolds.