If you've ever hung out with SCAdians, you know the plot already. "Man, if the world ever goes to heck [and eventually the ammo runs out] we could set up a nice little fiefdom with these swords and bows and suchlike." Short version - Leslie Fish's Serious Steel in novel form. (Thanks Oleg for playing me that little ditty.. )
The pagan-culture characterization we see in Juniper's bunch starts out agonizingly trite, but gets increasingly familiar as the book goes on. For that matter, Idaho charter flying across the Frank Church is fairly tame once you've seen Alaska piloting close up. It's not high art, but it is fun .I picked it up on a lark, largely out of bemused curiosity once hearing the musician that so inspired me back into fiddle in the first place had been dropped into the story pretty much wholesale, lyrics and all. I'm still waiting for the March of Cambreadth scene - I know it has to be in there somewhere. We got the drums and pipes already.. :)
The story itself? Fun romp, nice brain candy. A little overly heavy on the sword-and-shield stuff I think, but that's part of the shtick I guess.
Which brings me to my point - the Ghost Dance... or at least the version of it held amongst the Lakota prior to Wounded Knee I. It's an old, old idea, that runs through so many cultures getting the short end of the stick - something will happen, all these changes we don't like will be washed away, and it will all be okay again.
Whether we're talking the Romans in first century Israel, the Americans to 19th century Lakota, or - well, fill in the blank. And that's the funny thing. We do fill in the blanks, all with our own particular views on What Should Be.
Thus, while so many of the stories share a similar premise, the Bad Guys are often the author's own boogeymen - John Wesley, Rawles' Patriots has his blue helmets and gun-grabbing statists, while Starhawk's Fifth Sacred Thing is all full up with nasty Southern Californian fundamentalists coming to conquer San Francisco for Christ or somesuch.
Whoever the barrier to the Perfect World is - the apocalypse novel gives you a nice chance to see them cut down [and/or converted or otherwise overcome] and things Finally Made Right, at least in some little corner of the world. Hakka Palle.
Which brings us back I think to the real appeal of the genre - once you're past hacking down the cannibals, beating the warlords, seducing the invaders to Love and Light, or whatever.. the work of building begins. The chance to start again, start fresh, without the baggage of accumulated dead ends cluttering the landscape.
I think there must be some human need to build, to create worlds. At one time, that was simply a matter of gathering them that wanted the same as you and heading over the far side of the hill. Keep what you could. Now we've spread everywhere, the maps complete in almost irritating precision.
It seems almost as if the entire beach is covered with footprints, discarded snack wrappers, and sand castles. The mystery is gone - and some hidden part of us aches for the tide to come in, and give us smooth fresh sands once again.
And in time, the tide will rise again. It always does.