Naturally, one is supposed to be left feeling incomplete and mistreated by the first installment of a dystopian short story, rife with intentionally coarse and jagged imagery, right? Walking into this title knowing only the inspirations cited by the author and his religious history leading to the complete dismissal of faith; I braced myself for a Nietzchean Übermensch battling the relentless ash layered ruinscapes of Macarthy’s roads. To varying degrees I was entertained by many emotional peaks and valleys as my expectations were met, surpassed, and in some cases left wanting.
To begin, Enter Ruinland is the first installment in a planned series of works that clearly leaves room for character development and macro storyline evolution, as its relatively short stature of 65 pages, is just enough to wet an appetite over a few nights before bed or in a single evening sitting. Thus I dove in on my mobile, with white letters on a black background rationing energy, pretending a personal dystopian energy crisis of my own to get into character.
Immediately we are introduced to a dilemma, life and death are in the balance yet faith in god is something “…to never waste time on.” The abrupt manner, short and contrite, of CJ Anderson’s penmanship is a series of swift hammer blows to the plot as direct or complete meaning is often given explicitly and openly. While effective and almost a necessity in the short story arena I found myself wishing to have more left to my own thoughts, my imagination, and my personal distrust of such a supernatural solution. While reeling with delight to the overt questioning of god and its many fallacies I found myself wishing it was woven into the story with more subtlety, to become part of the characters persona as opposed to a secondary narrative to the chaos enfolding withing the nuclear bunker.
The characters, introduced in a three pronged spear of atheism, represent man, woman, and machine as their internal and external crises are divulged in often exacerbating circumstances. In the first half we are treated to the background of the apocalypse and its holy harbingers weaved into the internal monologue of Logan, an alleged disassociated sociopath targeted for termination by the controlling artificial intelligence of the fallout bunker. This serves an introduction to the AI in an incredibly effective memo style delivery that fully embraces CJ’s drum like literary rhythm. I found myself smiling openly at the effectiveness of these evolutionary and HAL 9000 like thought patterns as if 2001: A Space Odyssey had recently played the video game Portal.
The role of archangel is surreptitiously played with zeal by Chiron, a security bot at the left or right hand of god, you pick your favorite murderer in Michael or Gabriel. With an element of curiosity Chiron evaluates the concepts of life, sex, and humanity as it eliminates elements of the populace discovered to carry a sociopathic gene. Coincidentally, he acts in at first a psychopathic manner but eventually blending the lines of sociopathy himself as the simple curiosity begins to gain complexity.
Returning back to Logan and his gruff, space marine persona, we see the outerworld for the first time as he confronts mortality peppered with flashing reminiscence of life before destruction, not all of it good and holy. The introverted analysis and monologue is broken with omniscient speech fragments of support, surprising at first and eventually confusing or frustrating as they are never effectively introduced or concluded. More to come it would seem.
With Logan’s existence in the balance and for future readers to discover we have reached the milieu of security and the final character to get treatment from CJ in this increasingly bleak analysis of the future of godlessness. This is my personal favorite series of events as the drama moves to its climax utilizing the claustrophobia of concrete mazes and tiny personal spaces. A monster on the lose, the lengths people are willing to go to survive, and the despair of a seemingly inescapable demise introduces, with great effect, Petty Officer Vasquez. With hidden pregnancy, sexual espionage, and chemical weapons Vasquez leads a very similar internal monologue to Logan, broken with moments of godless lecture and Artificial Computer memos, but effectively making her the most developed character thus far.
Without ruining the epic Ruinland showdown, humor me dear reader, I effectively have been drawn into the story, its blunt reiterations, and prospect of future installment greatness. If you are looking for a book to violently stomp the face of god into the very real possible results of faith based nuclear armament seek no further, but if you are looking for deep philosophical musings and further evaluation of the many dark lines drawn in the ash you may have to wait for round two. As an introduction of our potential dark future and the analysis of humanity through a very mechanical lens there is potential here and I assure you I will be reading the next installment.