Wednesday, July 12, 2017

When the English Fall by David Williams

Jacob's daughter foretold the disaster. She saw angels in the sky and claimed the English would fall. And fall they did. Solar flares killed off almost everything electric, bringing the modern world to its knees. 

But for Jacob and the rest of his community, life went on almost as per usual. Planning and planting for the winter, canning and preserving the current crops to see them through the season, community, and worship. And when the English supplies fall short, Jacob and his community gave what they could. But as the outside world become more and more desperate, Jacob and his neighbors faced the ultimate  challenge: could they remain true to their beliefs and their faith even when their very safety was in question?

I never met a post apocalyptic tale that didn't appeal to me in some way. This was no exception, though in retrospect I must admit that it likely would have completely missed my radar had I not seen it on the list of "19 Science Fiction Debuts We Can't Wait to Read in 2017" from Barnes and Noble. When I came across the ARC shortly thereafter, I had to read it immediately.

I can't tell you how glad I am that this one came to my attention, because it really is superb. It's a quiet sort of story, one that is ultimately a morality tale.

Jacob and his family are Amish. And though their community is less strict than the one he and his wife grew up in, they still live by the basic tenets all Amish do. Those tenets include helping your fellow man and not raising arms. So when technology in the world around them fails, they're not very affected at first. With only a few exceptions, they live completely by and on the land with no reliance on technology or electricity.

Of course an over reliance on technology is the downfall of the towns and cities that surround their community and soon people come in search of help. The story will no doubt remind you of Aesop's "The Grasshopper and the Ants" up until this point. But here the story deviates - Jacob and his community are more than willing to help.

Though the tale is told through Jacob's own journals, the Amish aren't the only characters in the story. Through Jacob's writings, readers are given insight into his family and his community and their beliefs. We're also given insight into their neighbors and acquaintances - English who live and work alongside Jacob's community.

David Williams's debut examines the hearts of men at times of true testing: when disaster strikes and all seems lost. Some react with sorrow and violence, while others hold firm and strong in their beliefs. But no one remains immune to or untouched by the fear of uncertainty.

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