About the Book
Publisher: Counterpoint (April 1, 2011)
Thirty years after global holocaust, the colony of Carthage still struggles to build its new world. While steam engines and other early industrial technology have empowered its economy, the fragile society is undermined by secret crimes, rifts between generations, government censorship, and a legacy of casting out those who suffer from radiation sickness.
Endings of worlds have occurred throughout human history. Some have been abrupt, like the annihilation of the original, ancient Carthage by the Romans. Some have been gradual, like the destruction of the Tibetan world over the past fifty years by the Chinese. But none have encompassed all of humankind. Only in recent years have we developed the capability for annihilation on a planetary scale. While there may be many reasons to believe that such a nightmare will never occur, the moment that capability became real, global apocalypse entered the realm of the possible.
This novel is certainly not meant to be a prophecy, but implicit in its backdrop are predictions about the state of technology and science after such universal destruction. Even with highly trained scientists among its inhabitants, it seems likely that a society of survivors with no electricity and no internal combustion engines would turn to early industrial age technologies. Locating the Carthage colony on the Great Lakes endowed its inhabitants with an environment rich in minerals, timber, water and wildlife, meaning that simple technologies like those for making matches, paper, cloth, glass and lumber would be readily available. Once foundries and forges were developed, steam engines and other simple machines would not be far behind. The setting on the inland sea also means the colonists are able to travel long distances by water–and in a region of long winters with few roads, incentives would be great to advance the iceboat technology of an earlier century.
The effects of global destruction on the external trappings of a community of survivors strike me as far easier to anticipate than the effects on the human psyche. Certainly baser human cravings and prejudices would not become extinct, yet nor would dignity, honor and spirituality. With survivors comprised of a random cross-section of modern society, there would be ample opportunity for the glory, and the shame, of humankind to be exhibited. It was this unique mix of worlds and peoples that drove my curiosity in writing this book. A stage on which a 21st century cast relying on 19th century technology struggles with murder, starvation, tyranny, and even the meaning of civilization itself provides fertile ground for imagination.
As my characters became more like companions on this journey, I began to sense an inevitable tension between the survivors, who must shoulder the nearly unbearable weight of memories of the past world and collective guilt over its fate, and the new generation, who would have to cope with inexplicable physical and emotional remnants of the old world. After being severed from their world would survivors lose all confidence in their past, would they shy away from history? Would the lost world seem more a myth than a nightmare to the new generation? How would it feel to glimpse the possible dying of humankind's light? What would define the people who were the most successful survivors–and how far must humanity be sacrificed for the survival of humans? Of all the mysteries explored on these pages, perhaps the greatest is the nature of the spark that must be kept alive.
Ashes of the Earth.
Reviewed by Melissa Kammer
Posted July 25, 2011
Hadrian Boone lives in a world vastly different from the one in which he grew up, a world that has been changed by a nuclear catastrophe. Sheltered from the worst of the fallout, he and a group of men become founders of a colony they call Carthage. Survival in the beginning was hard, but they managed to live off the land and in time develop simple technologies. They are still far from self-sufficient and still plagued with problems. Unfortunately, their society looks down on things that remind them of the past, so the adults and the children have no common ground. Censorship, child suicides, and even crime run rampant. They exile those who are sick and dying. Will they ever have a thriving community?
Hadrian haunted by the past has long sought solace at the bottom of a bottle. He is quite outspoken in his views, and rather often finds himself in a jail cell. However, when Jonah, a good friend and fellow founder, is found murdered, Hadrian along with a female officer are tasked by the governor with finding the murderer. The hope of Carthage rested mainly on Jonah's inventions, and Hadrian needs to figure out the reason behind his death. He follows a convoluted path through the dark side of Carthage, into the exile camp, and even further beyond their known land. Their path yields some answers but also uncovers more questions. He never imagined the depth of the duplicity and corruption that threatens his colony and the people who inhabit it. Will he be able to convince anyone of the destruction that is coming their way? Will he make sure that Jonah's death is avenged?
Eliot Pattison writes a marvelous thought provoking end of the world novel. He has created a believable dystopian world where society is still separated by class, governing officials look little beyond what they want to accomplish, and criminal organizations still find a foothold to worm their way in. Hadrian cannot forget the past and cannot live as if there was nothing that came before. He understands that there are lessons to be learned, and Jonah's murder is an eye opener that cannot be ignored. His journey leads him into the midst of so much more than he ever imagined. Mr. Pattison weaves an exceptional mystery with so many twists and turns, you begin to wonder if the maze will ever end. ASHES OF THE EARTH is a smart daring read with characters that grab hold of you. I was immediately entranced with the characters, their plight, and their yearning for a better life. This book gives you a lot to think about, and Mr. Pattison has written a winner.
Ashes of the Earth
Having successfully portrayed both modern-day Tibet and Colonial America in two series, Edgar-winner Pattison (Eye of the Raven) launches a third with this brilliant if grim mystery set in the 21st century 25 years after global mega-acts of terror have destroyed all U.S. government entities and almost all infrastructure. Hadrian Boone, one of the cofounders of the struggling colony of Carthage, located near the Great Lakes, is one of those who remembers the former world, as the time before the apocalypse is referred to, but he's on the outs with the community's leaders and on the verge of being exiled. The chance discovery of a body triggers a series of events that reintroduces murder and other crimes to a community reliant on 19th-century technology. Boone's efforts to find the truth and what it implies for Carthage's future put him in harm's way time after time. Pattison blends the bleakness of The Road with a well-crafted whodunit plot for another winner. (Apr.)
Urgent: ASHES OF THE EARTH by Eliot Pattison
International attorney Eliot Pattison already has two powerful detection (and spiritual search) series underway: one sent in Chinese-occupied Tibet, more or less "now," and the other set in Colonial America, tying together the despair and strength of a Scottish exile and a Native American shaman.
Emily frowned. "Lost world. Lost technologies." She paused and tilted his head, holding the bottle to his mouth.It's not a "brave new world," but a dire one. Only courage, loyalty, love, and laying one's life on the line -- in collaboration with willing friends -- may take Hadrian Boone and his community out of the ashes that remain.
Read it first as a taut, tightly plotted detective novel, human and agonized. Then let it rest in your thoughts. What Pattison offers us is a dose of courage for ourselves, disguised as a rattling good story.
For Hadrian Boone the ending of the world has no ending. The apocalypse that all but extinguished humankind may have occurred twenty-five years earlier, but for Hadrian each day he wakes in the small colony of survivors the torment begins anew. When his friend and mentor Jonah Beck, the leading scientist of Carthage colony, is brutally murdered, Hadrian abandons all hope. But as the colony's tyrannical governor begins to use the murder as an excuse to complete his destruction of the colony's outcasts, Hadrian rises out of his despair, determined to stop the governor by discovering the truth.
Hadrian begins a desperate journey through the underbelly of the colony and into the wretched camps of the outcasts, escorted by Jori Waller, a young policewoman who struggles to cope with the physical and emotional remnants of a world she never knew. Ultimately Hadrian's journey becomes one of self-discovery, and to find justice his greatest challenge is navigating the tortuous path of the human spirit in a world that has been forever shattered.
Pattison's post-apocalyptic world is populated with battered survivors who murmur fifty-year old rock songs like mantras, criminals who use secrets of the old world to subvert the new, priests who fear God has given up on humankind, and a new generation whose view of history is driven by myth and fear. Ashes of the Earth offers a journey through a alternate world that poignantly explores the meaning of justice, morality, and ultimately civilization itself.
Questions for Discussion
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