Collapse by Richard Stephenson
Published July 5th, 2012 by Stephenson & Powers Publishing House
Picture and synopsis from the Goodreads book page
Author’s Website: http://rastephensonauthor.blogspot.com/
Book can be purchased at: Amazon (I also found a listing at B&N, put it was just for the paperback and at like $40.00 so I decided not to list it here)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. No compensation or promise of good review was promised in exchange or the book.
America is falling, ready to join the Roman Empire as a distant memory in the annals of history. The year is 2027. Tired and desperate, the American people are deep in the middle of The Second Great Depression. The Florida coastline is in ruins from the most powerful hurricane on record; a second just like it is bearing down on the state of Texas. For the first time in history, the Middle East has united as one and amassed the most formidable army the world has seen since the Third Reich. A hidden army of terrorists is on American soil. This is the story of three men: Howard Beck, the world’s richest man, also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Richard Dupree, ex-Navy SEAL turned escaped convict. Maxwell Harris, a crippled, burned out Chief of Police of a small Texas town. At first they must fight for their own survival against impossible odds. Finally, the three men must band together to save their beloved country from collapse.
I was not really sure what I would end up rating this from the beginning until the very end, I still am not entirely sure that’s the right rating. This one was difficult for me since I honestly did enjoy the book very much. But even though I enjoyed it, I didn’t (and still don’t) feel it was as good as my usual 4 or 5 star book. So this is somewhere between a 3 and 3.5 star book.
Collapse is a story about the demise of the United States. Debt is ever mounting, the country is in a never-ending war with the Empire of Iran, a hurricane has devastated Florida and killed millions, wildfires rage across much of California, and that’s just the beginning. The novel follows several characters on their individual journeys through the tumult all over the country. There is Richard DuPree, a former Navy SEAL who is currently imprisoned for murder in California. There is Malcom Powers the current President of the United States. Maxwell Harris is the Chief of Police in a small town in Texas who has spent most of his career crippled and addicted to painkillers. And finally we have Howard Beck, the wealthiest man in the world and creator of the world’s very first true artificial intelligence program. The story is told alternately from all of their points of view as events unfold until finally the circumstances bring all of the together.
I really enjoyed all of the individual characters. We didn’t see Malcolm Powers as much as I might have liked, but he was a good character when we got him. Max Harris was my least favorite of the characters and I can’t really say why. There was nothing wrong with the character, I just found him boring. Richard was fascinating, I looked forward to every single one of his chapters so that we could learn more of his story. My favorite character however was Howard Beck. He was funny, witty, and really just took the story to another level. His interactions with his AI program (Hal) were priceless and Hal became a character in his own right as a result.
The plot of the novel was also very good. Everything that happens in the book was something that you can read safely because it seems like it would be so far away if it ever happened. But at the same time, looking around this country, you could see the possibility for all of it to actually happen. To me, that is what makes a good dystopian novel. A plot that seems far away but entirely plausible given the current state of events in the world. I really loved seeing the individual plots moving forward and wondering how it would all come together and bring these people into the same sphere of reality.
So all of these things sound really excellent right? What could possibly be giving this a 3 star rating? Well, here it is. There was a lot of jumping around in this novel, both in timeline and narrators. While I liked the narrators, we jumped around in the plot timeline so much that it made me feel like I was reading through 6 months worth of plot even though it all takes place in a few days. Because we jump around narrators so often, a lot of things get repeated. I think I heard about the impending hurricane in Texas probably 6 times before it actually happened and about 8 times after. Every time we switched narrators, we got told a lot of the same things that we’d just been told by the last one. This got a bit tedious and made it harder to engage with the plot. It also got predictable and tiresome to have EVERY chapter end in a cliffhanger. I spent a lot of time wondering what the cliffhanger for that chapter would be rather than focusing on the plot, not a good thing. I think the right editor could tighten up the storytelling a bit and really make this sing even more than it does right now.
The final shining star for this novel is the ending. While we had cliffhangers through the entire book, I didn’t feel like we ended on that big of cliffhanger. Maybe a little one, but nothing major. If the story was over and no other story was forthcoming I would have been completely satisfied with the ending. With another story coming, it intrigued me enough to make me want to know. It was the perfect way to end this book and I loved it.