The Peace of Maine takes place in a post-apocalyptic not so distant future, and one that’s set up with a chillingly conceivable series of events. Successive acts of terrorism invoke increasingly xenophobic reactions that resonate as being uncomfortably possible in light of recent actions by the US and other world powers. The ultimate outcome is one that leaves only a smattering of isolated communities recovering not so much from the nuclear holocaust, but from the devastatingly effective bio-attack that coincides with the kinetic assault.
The lasting effects of these events shape the physical and psychological landscape for what follows. But unlike many books based on a similar premise, this one focuses less on the dystopian fallout of the disaster that has occurred, than on the goodwill and common sense of a community that has risen above the horror to create a stable, supportive community. While peaceful and crime-free, that community is pragmatic rather than utopian, although still perhaps too good to be true.
What else is different? First and foremost, if what you’re looking for is a thriller, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, The Peace of Maine reads more like a morality play than a typical work of fiction. From the morality point of view, all of the characters fall distinctly into one of three camps: solid citizens that embrace community values (although they may still have their own idiosyncrasies), individuals that have participated as members of one of two separate corrupt and violent communities (who immediately abandon that life to join the moral side of the conflicts that ensue), and irredeemably, stereotypically heinous villains that remain true to form up until the moment of their ultimate destruction.
Clearly, this is a book that’s interested in making a case, and one that is willing to sacrifice subtlety in order to do so. The result is that the characters are rather two-dimensional, playing their appointed roles in the narrative rather than living out fully fleshed out interior lives. The story line is similarly determined, sometimes to the point of becoming uncomfortably righteous. This emerges most clearly when the principal character, a fairly young woman recently invited to become a member of the foverning council of the core community, willingly assumes harshly retributive roles, up to and including acting as a member of an execution squad.
Whether you assign this book four stars or two will depend on whether you buy into the goal that the author has set for himself. If you’re looking for a casual read, you’ll likely be disappointed. But if you’re looking for a book that has a point to make about where we’ve been and where we may be going, then you may find this to be an unusual and interesting read.
The Peace of Maine is available in eBook ($2.49) and softcover ($15.89) versions at Amazon, and can also be purchased (along with the author’s second book, Black Jackets) at the Smashwords site. The author’s website can be found here.