02 August 2010

Apocalyptica: The Great Bay

The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse, by Dale Pendell, is the perfect light post-apocalyptic novel for summer beach reading.  No, it's dead serious, beginning with the radical culling of the US population to 1/80th of its present size through bio-engineered plagues, followed by natural plagues, followed by famine.  After that, though, things lighten up -- it's more inspiring than depressing.  

The Great Bay is structured as a series of dispatches in different media: news reports, scholarly journals, interviews, third-person omniscent narration, private diaries.  It covers a multitude of people and situations, beginning with the early days of the collapse, through a few generations of scavenging and "making do," toward an unwinding of the very idea of Civilization.  

It says something about Pendell's view of society that the first example of a successful, humanistic, post-Collapse society is a resurrected biker gang that combines outlaw and family values and pretty much works. The timescale here is so broad that individual characters come and go, yet each is treated with compassion.  I was comforted by the view across centuries, which puts the anguish of our current age in perspective as but one moment in the long, long story of Gaia. 

Pendell's implicit critique of the very idea of civilization, and our notions of Progress and cultural evolution, challenges some of my long-held beliefs.  I've been very invested in the spiral dynamics model and the idea that societies do evolve toward higher or more inclusive value systems.  In The Great Bay, civilization simply unwinds, and the lives of the hunter-gatherers at the end of the Anthropocene are as meaning-full as those of the dazed survivors of our own time. 

Buy the Great Bay righ now from your local bookseller - it's a landmark in the literature of Collapse.