Family dynamics, Fantasy, Fiction, Howey-Hugh, Mystery, Post Apocalyspe, Post United States, Science Fiction, Social Commentary, what if

#410 A Rap Upon Heaven’s Gate by Hugh Howey

A Rap Upon Heaven's Gate by Hugh HoweyA Rap Upon Heaven’s Gate by Hugh Howey

At this point I want to know if Hugh has written any more books in the Sand series. Let me go check…no, apparently there is not, but as far as good news goes, Hugh has apparently done some updates to his website. It looks more Sci-Fi now.

This is the last installment of the Sand series. So what happens? Well, our family manages to meet up again. Palmer is weak and can barely move. His sister rescued him from almost certain death out in the sand. They get to Springston just a minute too late. The sand pirates have blown up the wall that holds the sand back from the city. Destruction reigns.

Vic goes straight for her mother’s brothel, The Honey Hole, to check on her family. The brothel is under sand, but Vic uses all her might and her dive suit, to move the honey hole out of the worst of the sand. Her family is inside, even the new sister. They’re all there, alive, some just barely, but they’re alive. Vic doesn’t have time to stay with them. There are people trapped under the sand. She gives Marco’s dive suit to her little brother Conner and they set to their grim task of trying to rescue people from underneath the sand. They manage to rescue about a hundred people, but that’s it. Out of an entire town, they find about a hundred people.

Palmer has already told Vic about the plans to destroy Low Pub as well, so Vic has to go there. Who they meet is an old friend, but he’s turned to the dark side. What the renegades pulled out of Danvar was not some piddly little weapon, it was an atomic bomb. They plan to detonate it in Low Pub. With some quick thinking from Conner, the men don’t get their chance. Conner and Vic have to decide what to do with the bomb. After finally reading the letter from her father, Vic has an idea.

Vic takes her sarfer and goes towards No Man’s Land; she takes the bomb with her. Her family has been instructed to go west as her father said in the letter. They’re not supposed to wait on her, but they do. In a few days they see a large mushroom cloud in the distance and they know Vic has pulled off her plan. They eagerly await her return.

What I liked

I had a chance to read a bit about what Hugh thought his book was about while on his website. Hugh said he was trying to write a book about people who need help, but don’t get it. We’re not talking psychological help, although that could be included in this overall “help;” we’re talking about help(food, clothing, political aid, monetary aid). Too many times we watch the news and see this impoverished area of the world. Sure, they’re impoverished, but the government has a blockade against them or whatever. Often, political or financial institutions can get in the way of helping a person. The bad people in this book series know about Low Pub and Springston. They know there are people living on the sand. They don’t care. They are busy with their profitable mining operation and they just flat-out don’t care. Sure their mining operation is making life miserable for these people, but again, they don’t care. Money talks and in this case money says, “Screw those guys! You’re making money.”

Families can get annoying. I’ve got one, I know. My family is one of those families that have developed a communication system faster than the speed of light. So if you do something embarrassing, the entire family is sure to know in about .00000001 seconds. I’m not actually going to look up the speed of light and figure out how to calculate something that is faster than the speed of light, so if that is incorrect, you’ll just have to deal with it. Just pretend. Vic’s family is annoying. She’s ashamed of them for various reasons, one of them being her mom is a prostitute. You really don’t get much lower than being the kid of a prostitute. Vic rebels against the idea of her mother and her profession, but when it comes down to it, Vic loves her family. She risks her life to save them from being buried under tons of sand. She does something that seems impossible, adrenaline rush and all of that. She realizes that her family is important and she would do anything for them despite all of their annoyingness.

What I didn’t like

Let’s talk about mining. For those of you from the mountainous regions of the world, you might know a little about mining. For the rest of you, you’re probably not so familiar with any of the processes. I come from an area where there are gold mines and copper mines. There are also a few gravel quarries. There are different types of mining. I don’t have the technical names for all of them. There are some types of mining that are less invasive and environmentally dangerous than others, for instance, traditional mining where you literally dig a shaft into the side of a mountain and go in there with a pick axe like you’re one of the seven dwarfs. There are other types of mining that are environmentally disastrous, strip mining and fracking. Fracking is mining for natural gas and not mineral. Some of these mining practices may not be dangerous to humans, excepting their usage of certain chemicals. Take gold mining for example. It’s usually not dangerous to people unless you count freak accidents, but sometimes people mining gold use mercury to aid in their mining processes. Mercury is bad for you. If you live near a stream where gold miners used a lot of mercury, there could very well be detrimental effects to your health.

Why do I mention all of this? I mention all of this to make a point, as usual. Mining can be very dangerous to people and to the environment. We need to mine things… coal, natural gas, minerals, and so forth, but we need to be careful about doing it. I don’t know if Hugh intended to make this political statement about the safety of various mining procedures when he wrote this series, but ultimately, that’s what he ended up doing. We’ve got this great book series all about how dangerous mining practices can not only screw up the environment, but screw up people as well.

Overall

I really enjoyed the Sand series and I hope Hugh writes more about these people who survive on the sand.



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#408 Thunder Due East by Hugh Howey

Thunder Due East by Hugh HoweyThunder Due East by Hugh Howey

My theories as far as Danvar have been confirmed, but I still won’t give it away, just in case you want to find out for yourself.

In this installment of the Sand series, we find our characters coming into seemingly chance meetings. Vic has run away from a terrible brawl that left her boyfriend dead. She’s obviously upset, but knows there are people trying to kill her. There are also people after her brother Palmer and she has to find him. She takes her sarfer out into the desert, it’s kind of a sand surfing vehicle, and looks for her brother. When she finds an emaciated frame, she knows it’s her brother. He looks terrible and he desperately needs water and food.

Meanwhile, back in the city, Rose is at her brothel, then all of a sudden, her two youngest children walk in with a little girl. The girl is about the age of her son Rob, but she’s sick and injured. She’s dehydrated. The boys tell their mother that she referred to their father as her father. Rose is suspicious of this, but accepts it quite readily, it seems just like the thing her no-good husband would do. He just up and left the family almost twelve years before then had another kid. The girl is in bad shape, her name is Violet.

When Palmer is rejuvenated just a bit, he tells his sister what he found. He tells her that Hap is dead. He tells her about Danvar and what is down there. He brought a map back up. The map is a blue print to a treasure-trove of scavengable goodies. Palmer also tells her something terrible. The men who went down to Danvar brought something back up that would destroy the two nearby cities. Vic knows they have to warn the people of the towns before this terrible thing happens even if people are after both she and Palmer.

Rose doctors Violet up enough and Violet is able to relay her tale. She traveled many days to reach the city. The raggedy clothes she was wearing was a homemade dive suit. Her father had sent her. The little girl explained what went on in the place she came from. There was water, but you couldn’t drink it. They were made slaves. They had to mine things out of the earth. All the sand came from the mining process. That was why the people in the desert towns suffered, but it was worse there. Everyone was skinny and sick. Before Rose really has a chance to do anything, sand comes from nowhere.

What I liked

I get the feeling that maybe Hugh doesn’t like fracking. Hugh’s books seem to have this message in them. In the Wool series, we kind of get that Hugh thinks people shouldn’t be intentionally polluting the environment. We get this big warning against letting a select few have control over what goes into our air and water. That’s cool and all. Hugh also seems to have taken the same stance here. A portion of a certain state has been turned into a desert because of mining practices. I’m not going to reveal what state this is, but let me go ahead and tell you, it would be largely impossible to turn it into a desert except in extreme circumstances, which is what we have in this series. This is something of a cautionary tale.

There was a period in the history of United States when poor farming practices led to a very large swath of the country being turned into dust. We called it the Dust Bowl. People just up and left their farms because they couldn’t farm dust and sand. It was a very devastating time for many people. They had to leave their homes and search for new place to live and to work. Hugh is taking a page from history when he writes about areas of the country being turned into dust and sand.

What  I didn’t like

There isn’t much I didn’t like about this book. I do feel bad that there are seemingly these foreign overlords forcing people to mine for metals.

Overall

Good story, short, but good.



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#407 Return to Danvar by Hugh Howey

Return to Danvar by Hugh HoweyReturn to Danvar by Hugh Howey

I think I know where Danvar is, but I’m not going to say because I don’t want to ruin it for you.

In the beginning of this installment of the Sand series we meet Vic. Vic is the oldest of the four siblings we’ve been following around. She’s also a sand-diver, a very good sand-diver. The beginning of this book finds her diving to a depth of 600 meters, but she doesn’t tell anyone. She doesn’t let anyone know that she can dive so deep. If everyone knew, everyone would be doing it and that would ruin her edge on the salvaging business.

When she gets back into town with her diving partner and boyfriend, Marco, she hears rumors. Danvar has been found. The whole thing sounds fishy to her. She and Marco go to see her mother at her brothel. It turns out Vic’s mother actually owns the brothel. She hasn’t seen Palmer in several days. Vic begins to suspect that Palmer is the one who found Danvar. People show up who are looking for Palmer and they have guns. This is very bad.

Vic tries to trace Palmer’s whereabouts, but ends up meeting ruffians and guns at every turn. At one point a very bad tussle leaves her injured and Marco worse off. An old friend steps in to help out.

Meanwhile…Palmer is alive! He’s still down in one of the buildings of Danvar hundreds of meters below the sand. There is air enough, but he’s ran out of water and jerky. He gets curious at one point and finds the other two divers that supposedly went down before he and Hap. Palmer There is a fight with the remaining diver. It doesn’t end well. Palmer knows he has to get out. The other diver had some air while Palmer had some power. Palmer takes the air and manages to dive up through the sand. He thinks he might make it back to the surface.

The deep pit the sand pirates had dug is gone. Palmer is going to have go even further than he ever imagined with only one tank of air. He channels everything he remembers his father and sister telling him about sand diving. He sees a beacon in the sand. He goes for it. It’s Hap. It’s at this point that he realizes Hap did not meet a happy end.

He realizes now that there will be people out for his life. Upon overhearing some of the things the sand pirates are saying at their camp, he knows they are up to no good and a lot of it.

What I liked

The plot thickens again! Of course the sand pirates weren’t nice guys.

I like how the entire family is getting involved in this situation. They’ve all been wrapped into it and they can’t get out. They’re connected by various threads and ideas. Palmer becomes this key to preventing a lot of terrible things, but is he up to the task?

Vic is another tough woman, much like Julie from the Wool series, also by Hugh. Hugh apparently has a thing for some tough women. It makes me wonder if his wife drives big rigs or something. Honey, when are you going to be home? Oh, after I deliver this haul to Phoenix and beat the crap out of a band of Hell’s Angels. Darnit! I broke a nail! It all reminds me of a song by Weird Al, Driving a Truck with my High Heels On.

Again, this world of sand is quite interesting. I have known a few people who have been through sandstorms on their deployments to the middle east. Sand gets in everything. My mother also grew up in Arizona where the occasional sandstorm would role around. The sand would sting when it hit your bare skin and get through even the tiniest of cracks. Hugh seems to know about the nature of sand, but he hasn’t gotten to its destructive power yet. He lives in Florida by the way, that’s how he knows so much about sand.

What I didn’t like

Hugh is falling into this pattern, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of depicting his main female leads as tough tomboys. Tough tomboy women are awesome, we all agree right? What’s not to love about the Danica Patricks of our world? She’s a race car driver by the way. I kind of feel as if Hugh doesn’t really know how to write another kind of woman, but that’s not necessarily true. The majority of his women may be tough, but there have been a few that aren’t these tough tomboys, but all the leading ladies have been tough tomboys. Out of the Wool series, Julie was a female mechanic, there was another female mechanic(I forget her name), the mayor was pretty hardcore, Donald’s sister was a fighter pilot and so on. Most of the women were what you would consider “tough.” It seems like Hugh is missing out on the more feminine side of women. There are people who won’t mind Hugh’s tough women though.

It’s not that I don’t like Hugh’s tough women, I do, I just think he’s falling into a rut in some aspects. Not all of Hugh’s women are tough and profess manly professions, just look at Vic’s mother in this series. She’s still tough, but you wouldn’t exactly call prostitution a manly profession.

Overall

The series gets more interesting as it goes on, as any good series should.



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#405 The Belt of the Buried Gods by Hugh Howey

The Belt of the Buried Gods by Hugh HoweyThe Belt of the Buried Gods by Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey is one of those authors I kind of have a writer’s crush on. He’s prolific and he seems to think up entire worlds and ideologies while he’s eating breakfast. I’m not really sure about the breakfast part though, his inspirational moments may come at nighttime or just whenever.

The Belt of the Buried Gods is the first part of a series called Sand, as you can see exhibit A to the left here. Hugh is known for writing another series called Wool, which I love so much and I wish it was a TV show, but Hugh has also written many other books.

This book takes place, well, we don’t really get when it takes place, but you start to get an idea as the story progresses. We meet two men, Palmer and Hap, they’re sand divers. What’s a sand diver you ask? Well, apparently the world Palmer and Hap know is covered in sand. There is sand, more sand, and oh, sand. Sandwiches are really SAND-wiches, if you know what I mean. I’m sorry that was stupid, but you get my point. Sand gets in everything. They live in tents. They move when they have to. Wells have to be maintained twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, otherwise, the well gets covered in sand and everybody dies of thirst. People have managed to live despite these challenges though. Palmer grew up and became a sand diver much like his older sister Vic. Vic is full of knowledge about the sand and how to stay alive in it. For you see, a sand diver, dives into sand.

You may think this is impossible, but Hugh has clearly thought this through and created a method for diving into the sand in his book. The sand divers wear special suits which enable them to vibrate the sand around them, making it more like a liquid rather than a solid. They use air, just as an underwater diver would do, so they must carry tanks on their backs. They use their suits to create pockets of liquified sand underneath the surface of the sand to move about, just as someone would do underwater. I know enough about sand to know that this might actually be plausible. Hugh could probably go to the patent office.

Palmer and Hap have been called out to the middle of nowhere to do a dive. They’re not aware of who they’re diving for and how deep they’re diving. The deeper one dives, the less likely it is that the person will return. The pressure of the sand eventually does make it too much for a human body to sustain. Hap is something of a friend to Palmer when he’s not constantly telling, “Your Mama” jokes.

Palmer soon finds out that they’re diving for a man who is like a pirate and that the dive is going to be very deep. The pirate is something of a treasure hunter. He’s looking for the famed lost city of Danvar. Palmer doesn’t really feel like diving into the sand possibly looking for nothing, but the man assures both Palmer and Hap that they know this is the place. They just need confirmation. They have already dug down 200-meters. This means Palmer and Hap will only have to dive 350 meters, which is still an almost unheard of dive depth. Palmer and Hap suit up anyway, what they find is something they never expected to see.

What I liked

Sand diving? How awesome is that? Leave it to Hugh to make up this completely new-fangled idea. Not that living in a silo underground was exactly new-fangled, people have been thinking about that since the Cold War, but the way in which Hugh arranged it was awesome. This book is no less awesome. Hugh explains all of this in a way that sounds totally plausible.

You have to think of sand as both a solid mass, but also individual parts. Each grain of sand is an entity of its own, but when you combine it with lots of other grains of sand it becomes a beach, or a sandbag, or just whatever. A beach and a sandbag both serve their purposes and are quite tough in many aspects. Sandbags can stop a flood from entering your home, that’s pretty strong stuff. When sand feels more solid, like the wet sand near the water on the beach, the particles of sand are packed very closely together. You can take a little shovel and dig into the sand there and more or less get a sold hunk of wet sand coming up with your shovel. Now, take your shovel and dig back where the beach is dry. Dig where the sand is all powdery and fine. Sure, you scoop some of it up with your shovel, but a lot of it runs off and blows away. The sand in this area of the beach seems more fine and more pliable. It’s the same sand, it’s just not as tightly packed because it doesn’t have that water mixed in with it. Now, on the extreme sand/water combination you have quicksand. It’s more like a strange soup. There is quite a bit of water and that water suspends particles of sand in itself. If this was regular old water you could swim out of it, but with quicksand you can’t really do that because it’s actually partially solid. You can’t really swim through a solid object.

So why explain all of that? I explain all of that to present the validity of Hugh’s idea. Theoretically, I think Hugh’s idea could work. If a machine could vibrate particles of sand far enough apart from one another, then certainly you could move through sand as if you were moving through water. Now, as far as getting to any depth, I’m not so sure pockets of loose sand would hold up underneath tons of sand on top of you, but maybe I’m wrong.

What I didn’t like

Hap is not really an enjoyable character. This installment of the series was also short on explanations, but I get that this is because of the nature of the series. This was the first installment of the series. I did choose to do this installment as its own book because Hugh did release these separately.

Overall

I wonder if Danvar is going to turn out to be Atlanta. As you may or may not know, the ruins in the distance in the Wool series was Atlanta. I don’t think Hugh likes Atlanta, or maybe he likes it too much. I don’t know. This series seems promising though.



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