Harry’s Book Review: The Wayward Journey, by Nathan Hale Jefferson

Book Title: The Wayward Journey (Volume 1)
Author: Nathan Hale Jefferson
Copyright Date: 2013
Publisher: Abundant Future Media
ISBN: 978-0989319904
Audio, e-book or foreign translation avail? Yes–Kindle edition of The Wayward Journey
Suitable for children? Teens and up.

The Wayward Journey is a story in which a natural disaster is piled on top of a growing disaster of financial mismanagement. There is not much in this novel which requires significant stretching of the imagination. In this story John, Margaret and their two children are struggling to make ends meet in an America which is burdened with both high inflation and high unemployment. John has a job, but it entails travel to remote locations for the reviewing of plans and construction of oil rigs. It is not an ideal job for a family man, and Margaret is not at all happy about it when John has to travel, but it is the best they can manage given the circumstances.

The story opens with John having to head out west to check out a string of projects. He has arranged things so that he can use his time as efficiently as possible and be home again soon. Margaret is worried because the national financial situation is deteriorating, and it is a justified concern. While John is on the trip the government decides to give everyone in the country a bonus benefit rebate (read: additional cash in their checking accounts), but then makes a mistake and gives many people ten times the amount of money intended. This of course does wonders for the inflationary cycle, spurred on to even greater heights as people try to spend the money before the government can claw it back. It is on top of this economic mess that a magnitude 7.9 earthquake on the New Madrid fault is added, devastating the midwest and plunging the entire nation into chaos. And of course, John is stuck a long, long way from home.

In reading the story I found myself viewing it as the inverse of William Forstchen’s One Second After. This is what it would be like to be one of the people out on the road, just hoping for a safe place to rest and a bite to eat. But John is a refugee who no one wants, or at least, no one wants for purposes of good. In addition to chronicling John’s journey, the author intersperses chapters which detail what is going on at John’s home while he is not there. The author does a good job of showing how society deteriorates both on the road and at home. What I thought was best done was the depiction of how neighbors who were just fine to live around so long as society was functioning smoothly could so quickly devolve into life threatening menaces.

SPOILERS AHEAD! The family in which the parents have handed off the raising of the children to schools, television and the video game industry reveal their lack of true character development when their spoiled brats become the neighborhood vandals. And the father who hasn’t been a real father responds to his children’s misbehavior by attacking the messenger. Then there is the neighbor whose background we are not given, but whose development of an empire is driven by an unscrupulous, psychopathic mind. His capacity for manipulation and deceit is the sort of thing no one wants to dwell on, but the progression of his acts is within character for human nature. It is on the home front that this book best portrays the descent into chaos. On John’s journey the cast of characters is continually changing, but at home the cast is fixed. While the characters John meets become progressively harder and more violent it is hard to pin down the causes and motivations for this behavior. At home however, the development of aggression and violence can be followed from one fault to the next, all along a path which is within the scope of human nature and which underscores the value of true character. When I got to within the last fifty pages or so I began to wonder how the author was going to wrap this book up in so few remaining pages. Be advised that it’s a good thing the book opens with a note about the sequel coming available: It does not end with a tidy wrap up, but rather leaves the reader hanging, looking for the next chapter. Not entirely a bad thing for a capitalist to do, but consider yourself advised in advance.

My copy of this story was a [pre-release] PDF, and it still needed some final editing touches for the sake of some grammar and spelling details, but nothing was so bad that it seriously detracted from the telling. I believe this is the author’s first book, and as such he is off to a strong start. Language is kept as clean as possible while still portraying bad guys as who they are. The most graphic of violence is largely left to the reader’s imagination (the results of gunshots being the most vividly described violence.) Overall, it is a book which I can recommend to the SurvivalBlog audience, and I hope Nathan Hale Jefferson is already pretty far along with Part II.