I recently binge-read an entire 9 book series: The Borrowed World series by Franklin Horton. I have since read several unrelated books and none have captured my attention and absorbed me into the setting as this story did. I still wish the visit with Jim Powell, his family, and his community had not ended.
|Book Review: The Borrowed World by Franklin Horton|
The Borrowed World (a Post-Apocalyptic Societal Collapse Thriller)
The story opens with a man, a terrorist living in the US, and the moment that the next plan to terrorize the country becomes a viable thought while watching a television documentary about the nation's failing infrastructure.
"The surgeon recalled the attacks of September 11th. He envisioned a broader attack. Something with more men and lasting devastation. Something more visceral and less flashy" - excerpt from The Borrowed World
During the first few chapters, the reader observes the work of the terrorists; how they destroy important sites across the United States including the Alaskan pipeline, Wolf Creek Dam, multiple refineries, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Transformers at power stations were also destroyed. Power, communication, and transportation systems immediately failed. Law enforcement and medical services failed soon after. The nation was completely changed from that day forward.
Jim Powell is the main character. He lives and works in southwestern Virginia and frequently travels to Richmond with his co-workers. He and five of his co-workers were in Richmond when the attack occurred. Jim woke in the hotel without power and his phone only partially worked, showing a pixelated headline stating "America, Nation Under Attack". He attempted to call home but received only the recording that the circuits were busy.
Jim's co-workers in Richmond are Gary, Lois, Alice, Randi, and Rebecca. At work, Jim is abrupt and abrasive. He and Lois tend to butt heads on a typical day. Their opposite opinions continue into this emergency situation. Jim wants to return home immediately. Some of his co-workers, Lois included, want to stay where they are and see what happens.
They decide to drive home as a group but immediately run into one dangerous situation after the next. These situations included difficulty getting gas, violence in the rest areas, and travelers being unwelcomed in the small towns along the interstates.
Jim is a prepper and has a "Get Home Bag" (similar to a "Bug Out bag if you've heard of them. However, Jim's Get Home Bag is full of items to help him return home rather than leave home in the event of an emergency). Gary has a similar bag. When they are unable to continue their trip via car some of the group decides to walk home, using the Appalachian Trail for a portion of the journey, while some of the group decides to wait for the promised help from the Government to first move them from the rest areas to a camp and later transported to their hometowns.
The chapters switch between the experiences of the part of the group who decided to walk home and the experiences of the part of the group who decided to wait for transportation at a camp.
Meanwhile, Jim's wife Ellen is at home with their two children. She is doing the best she can to follow the things Jim taught her about being prepared while keeping her family safe from those who come to steal their food and possessions.
Reasons Why I Loved This Story and Read the Entire Series
It was immediately obvious that Jim was one of those characters who is flawed. Maybe not even likeable to some. But I couldn't help but root him on... hoping he got home quickly for the sake of his wife and children. But quickly is relative when you are talking about walking across the state of Virginia. The other characters were each unique and their voices were clearly their own. I never had to pause to try to remember who was who. It was very interesting to see how each individual made their choices. I fell in love with Randi and Gary and hoped for their safe travels. I forgave Jim for his abrasive rule-breaking and was pleased for his sake that he had broken some of the agency and HR rules.
In addition to the fictional aspect of this story, I enjoyed the informational portions of the book. In the forward the author states:
"During periods of elevated terror alerts and especially during Hurricane Katrina, I thought often about the vulnerability of a person traveling during a national disaster"
"As a way of passing the time during long drives, I developed 'get home plans' for each trip. Given what I had in my luggage, what avenues of travel would be available to me?" - Franklin Horton
As a result, he packed differently for trips - including a good pair of walking shoes. Over the years I've observed people (women especially) getting stuck in blizzards and walking through deep snow in flats or heels. Still, I do not tend to keep good walking shoes in my vehicle, but after reading The Borrowed World I will begin to do so. In addition to shoes, the author clearly has experience with a variety of survival/camping/hiking items. For example, he spoke of a brand of water filter that would be an excellent addition to my own camping/day hiking items. His style of "product placement" or product recommendation did not interrupt the flow of the book at all as it was such a part of the story yet provided factual information about his own preferred items.
This is not a how-to prep book. But it does present much food for thought related to disasters (natural or man-made). This is a story about people trying to survive an extreme terrorist attack that disables life as we know it. It also peeks at the negative view of "preppers" but pulls back the curtain on how vulnerable we all truly are and that it doesn't hurt to be at least a bit prepared for extreme circumstances.
Finally, when I was much younger I read The Stand by Stephen King. That story, especially the beginning description of the pandemic and those trying to survive it, kept me awake reading at night. But later in the book the story started to drift for me as it included more of the dark fantasy. The Borrowed World never drifted for me. It remained in the realm of disasters that could really happen and the possible resulting struggle over resources. The reality that the food supply is not infinite and starving neighbors can go to great lengths to take your remaining piece of crusty bread is unnerving. I kept turning pages to see if and how the Powell family would survive.
Readers may also enjoy One Second After by William R Forstchen. One Second After is a story about America's power grid going down after an EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) weapon was detonated over the US. Previously I thought EMPs were the product of active imaginations. However, I have since learned that it is something that has actually been discussed in Congress and is something that could really occur. In One Second After, families and a community are again trying to survive without electricity, communication, and without a supply of food. This fictional story kept me interested, but I did not find the individual characters as memorable as Jim Powell et al.
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