Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ashes 01 - Out of the Ashes

Out of the Ashes
William W. Johnstone
Ashes 01
1983 Pinnacle


Out of the Ashes is about 2% post-apocalyptic men's adventure and 98% half-baked political utopian babbling.

A secret army of rogue elements of the US military start a war between China and Russia.  These are the good guys, the ones that kill billions of people.  Ends up that they were somehow having their strings pulled by presidential candidate Logan Hilton, who is for some reason the bad guy for doing the same thing.

Most of America is wiped out by nuclear and germ warfare.  Veteran and genre fiction writer Ben Raines, an obvious stand-in for Johnstone, proceeds to travel around the country interviewing survivors to preserve the oral history of the nation.  But mostly, he bangs liberal college girls less than half his age when he isn't patronizing them.

He occasionally stops to toss a grenade at redneck militias, but there's a lot more sex than violence in the first part of the book, and way more Andy Rooney-ing.  For a character that came of age in the 60s, Raines comes across a bitter old man, whining about rock music, the IRS, the FCC, and other trivialities that one would think would be overshadowed by having some 90% of the worlds population killed off.

There is a smattering of action as Raines butts heads with KKK and neo-nazi groups, but these are just introduced so that Raines' normal level of 80s conservative racism seem acceptable in comparison.  Raines is no bigot after all.  He recognizes that not all black people spend their welfare money on defense lawyers so they can stay out of prison while raping white women, only a sizable percentage.  Some are decent, well educated, and don't listen to black music (known in the US as "music").  Well, one is.  And some of the mixed race women are actually attractive enough to sleep with, provided they don't look or act black.  This is going to have to pass for open mindedness here.

Back to the plot, eventually, and President Logan Hilton is trying to rebuild the country, forcing people to relocate and taking their guns.  The deep south becomes New Africa, the KKK run portions of the midwest, and Raines heads off to start the tri-state empire of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming with the Rebels.  You know, the ones that killed off most of the planet.

At this point we hit the fast forward button.  Logan unites the rest of the country by force, a neat trick since the entire military hates him.  Raines is the governor of the Tri States, and it's six years later.  We're treated to a tour of his utopia as presented to that most hated enemy - the liberal media!

Like Hilton, Raines relocated the populace.  The difference between them is guns.

In the Tri States, Raines is Governor for life, the final arbitrator of all rules, proceeds over every trial, and controls every aspect of everyone's life.  This is not a dictatorship, because he was elected Governor for life, running unopposed.  I'm not sure Johnstone knows what a dictatorship is.

The state controls all industry, assigns work roles, sets wages, re-educates dissenting citizens and takes away their children, controls the press, and enforces conformity in thought and action.  This is not communism because guns.  I'm not sure Johnstone knows what communism is.  Or irony or self-awareness for that matter.

We're treated to probably a good hundred pages of armed guards bullying and smugly bragging about how great their utopia is.  Here we finally get to the meat of how this Utopia works: only good people live there, and the laws are perfectly written out the first time so that there's no grey areas.  Total rule by law, except that all laws are interpreted by one Carl Raines.

For the sake of sanity I skimmed through this part, then Johnstone personally throws me a bone and has the US forces wipe out almost every smug man, woman, and child of the Tri States.  Raine's unborn child is bayoneted in the womb and blown apart by a full clip of rifle fire, but someone was kind enough to put the pieces together and wipe them off to let him know he had Raines' eyes.

Raines and a few survivors spread rabies and anthrax through the Tri States in a scorched earth strategy that ensures that even their old and injured end up dead.  So the Tri States end up a practical, as well as moral, failure.

The survivors infiltrate the rest of the US and assassinate most of the US Congress and any bystanders that happen to be in the way, the end.

I know I have to put up with a little political soapboxing with these things, but Out of the Ashes is almost 500 pages of naive drivel, with maybe twenty devoted to action.  More baffling, there's like 34 more volumes in the series over the next twenty years.


  1. As a Johnstone fan, are you going to read them all? I only managed the read about four of his horror novels before I realized that if I lived to be a thousand life was too short!!!

    1. I'm reading all his horror (about half way there), but I doubt I'll touch the Ashes series again.