An unnamed cataclysm has caused the earth’s poles to suddenly change direction, throwing the world into a literal and figurative dark age. Conrad Scott and his wife are driving at the moment it happens. Their car slams into a tree. The wife dies. Conrad, seriously injured, stumbles to a farmhouse where he removes his own damaged eye with a spoon and amputates some damaged fingers. The farmhouse owners, Henry and Martha, come home and nurse him back to health. While out hunting, Conrad discovers Henry’s body, shot with an arrow. Abandoning the deer he has killed, he sets off to find the murders and have his revenge.
From here, the book becomes a series of scenes of people being incredibly cruel to one another and Conrad murdering the evildoers.
Conrad reaches the university at which his daughter was a student, only to discover that she is evidently dead from plague. Conrad and the university-types travel to New Polis, a city Conrad founded with the help of some military types. He sets out to find a woman he had previously saved from savage men. He eventually winds up back where it all began, and discovers life has gone on after all. Returning to the university a second time, he discovers his daughter isn’t dead.
Told in an omniscient point of view, we get the thoughts of not only Conrad, but his dying wife, a dog named Sugar, Martha and Henry, who nurse Conrad back to health, a trio of bad guys and the woman they are holding prisoner, a platoon of good guys, and a host of others, including a malevolent vulture who is more than a bird. The result of all this head hopping is that we have no clear character to follow. Often we begin a scene in Conrad’s point of view, only to finish it in another character’s. This makes it very difficult to care about anyone.
The characters and many of the situations are so cartoony as to be unbelievable. Not only does Conrad Scott perform surgery on himself, he also single-handedly figures out how to make old vehicles move again and how to light the university. He also reworks an old radio so that a signal can be sent out to whomever might have also reworked an old radio and is listening—which, lucky for them, turns out to be a Naval detachment. No matter how many people are shooting at him, he is never so much as winged, much less seriously injured.
The secondary characters mostly fall into one of two camps: terrible people who need to be killed, or good people who immediately recognize Conrad for the brilliant man he is and rush to anoint him as their leader.
I also had a difficult time understanding—given the number of people that Conrad dispatches—where he gets his seemingly never-ending supply of ammunition. Nor how his horse, Kermit, finds food in an overlong, harsh winter in which people are so hungry they’ve turned to cannibalism. Nor do I know where the university people find fuel to run the vehicles Conrad has made work. Or where the material, needles and thread, and tailors came from to make the uniforms for the people of New Polis. Whatever Conrad needs or wants seems to magically appear.
The author has a habit of announcing what a character thinks or is about to do and then following with dialog that reiterates what we have just been told. He also tells us what is happening—often with long information dumps—rather than showing us.
The book also should be reformatted to justify the text and remove the spaces between paragraphs.
On the plus side, the book is reasonably well-edited in terms of typos, missing quote marks, etc., but doesn’t seem to have been professionally edited.
Although the premise is interesting—what happens to society when a sudden and profound worldwide disaster hits—the execution left much to be desired. The ability to enjoy this book probably is in direct proportion to one’s ability to suspend all disbelief.