William R. Forstchen’s Vision of an Obscure Future
As our lives become increasingly complicated due to the development of various technologies we come to rely on an ever-rising number of crutches that allow us to maintain our daily routine. Complexity is often a double-edged sword: complicated systems have greater potential, but are generally easier to sabotage… and that’s a concept which can be applied to our visions of the apocalypse.
We’ve come a long in way in our depictions of the end of the world, going from rampant disease and fire from the sky to total nuclear and biological warfare.
Our fears in regards to the apocalypse unquestionably reflect the things we rely on for collective survival, and today it’s harder to think of something that fulfills that role better than electricity.
Virtually everything runs on it, and there are more and more authors like William R. Forstchen who are wondering what would happen should we be suddenly deprived of it, an idea he explores in tremendous depth in his John Matherson series, with this third and last book being The Final Day.
In the previous two books we’ve come to familiarize ourselves with the author’s vision of a future America that got hit by an EMP (Electromagnetic pulse) blast and as a result fell into boiling chaos. Famine, civil war, disease, starvation, distrust, and violence have taken over the American people, with rebellions popping up left and right as well as people splitting into smaller communities.
In the third book, The Final Day, we get to see the kind of progress John Matherson has made with his community from the very start, trying to restore the country to its former glory days piece by piece. Against all odds they are very slowly but surely succeeding in bringing the good life back to this wasteland.
However, a new autocratic government has very different plans: to cede huge parts of the country to China and Mexico. Even though some communities are prepared to roll over and accept whatever changes may come, John and his gang aren’t too keen on letting the whole country be ripped apart at its darkest hour.
A Dependence Worth Pondering Over
As you might already know if you’ve read the other books in the series, the running theme here is our critical dependence on technology and how much we take for granted things our ancestors had to toil day and night for, things like food, light, heat, shelter, safety and running water.
Once again these elements come at the forefront of the book’s themes and we are reminded just how lucky we are to be living in a time and place where all those things are so integral to our daily lives we don’t even think of them.
At the same time, we are made to wonder whether or not we are perhaps getting too comfortable in our luxury. Our society can indeed be completely destabilized and turned upside down on its head if deprived of this one thing (electricity), sending us barreling down into the Middle Ages, basically signaling the end of days for many of us, especially those who can’t live without the internet.
Should we be working towards assuring our independence from society and try to live off the grid?
Is our dependence on technology really worth the frailty it brings with it?
Is the kind of future described in The Final Day an eventuality we need to prepare ourselves for, both physically and mentally?
In the end, we will all find our own answers to these questions, just like the author did.
A Hope for a Rebuilt America
Setting aside the books grand philosophical strengths, we still have one hell of a story to discuss, and I feel it’s worth starting by looking at the quality of the writing itself. Forstchen has been writing for decades now and his experience has led him to become one of the most precise and polished wordsmiths you could find.
There are no superfluous descriptions, useless phrases or pointless words to be found here. There is some kind of meaning to be found on every page and we never feel as if the action is dragging on longer than anticipated. We never second-guess what meaning the author is trying to convey, nor are there any confusion issues to speak. In short, it’s a technically-flawless performance few others can replicate.
Moving on from that and looking at the story itself, you can rest assured that it’s a worthy send-off for the series. It’s a complicated novel with many aspects to it, including very strong emotions, historical discussions, life-threatening intrigues, a plot that affects the whole country, and full with American traditions.
The outcome is anything but guaranteed and throughout the whole story we never cease fearing for John and his community, for we know all too well they are living in a cruel world without promises that can take life without discrimination, not unlike ours.
The characters are as engaging as they ever were, with John making for a likeable and interesting protagonist who is easy and pleasant to follow, even all of his flaws taken into account.
The different members of the community have a tendency to grow on us, to the point where even the people we don’t really like draw some sort of sympathy from us. There is enough complexity to the people and their personalities to maintain our interest in them throughout the whole thing.
The Final Verdict
With everything that’s been said, I have to say that The Final Day is a prime example of the fine work William R. Forstchen is capable of. It ends a series that began with a relatively original idea in great style and finesse, treating his readers the way they deserve to be.
The story is driven forward with great gusto and concluded in a satisfying way, one that will have you put down the novel and think for a little while on everything you’ve just read and ponder on the implications in regards to the real world.
If you have read the previous books and enjoyed them, then I highly recommend you finish the story with this third one, it’s guaranteed you won’t be disappointed. If you are just looking to discover what Forstchen is all about, then this series is as good a place to start as any.
William R. Forstchen
William R. Forstchen is an American author, historian and Professor of History and Faculty Fellow at Montreat College in North Carolina. He holds a doctorate from Purdue University with specializations in military history, history of technology, and the American Civil War.
He has authored numerous acclaimed series, with some of the more widely-celebrated ones including Rally Cry, Honoured Enemy and the Wing Commander series.