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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review: The Heatstroke Line: A Cli-Fi Novel by Edward L Rubin

This presents a climate message wrapped in an engaging story.
The Heatstroke Line: A Cli-Fi Novel
by Edward L Rubin
File Size: 667 KB
Print Length: 229 pages
Publisher: Sunbury Press, Inc. (September 28, 2015)
Genre: Cli-Fi, Dystopia, Post-Apocalyptic, Sci Fi
My Rating: 4.0 of 5.0

Nothing has been done to prevent climate change, and the United States has spun into decline. Storm surges have made coastal cities uninhabitable, blistering heat waves afflict the interior and, in the South (below the Heatstroke Line), life is barely possible. Under the stress of these events and an ensuing civil war, the nation has broken up into three smaller successor states and tens of tiny principalities. When the flesh-eating bugs that inhabit the South show up in one of the successor states, Daniel Danten is assigned to venture below the Heatstroke Line and investigate the source of the invasion. The bizarre and brutal people he encounters, and the disasters that they trigger, reveal the real horror climate change has inflicted on America.

Dan is an entomologist, conducting studies, writing articles and teaching at one of the Mountain America Universities. He has a wife, two teenagers, one intense and one edgy, and his youngest son, a 10-year-old, has fallen ill over the past year.

America suffered a second civil war and, while states were battling among themselves, an attack was made on Canada. Canada retaliated with strong force eventually putting down any attempts to invade its boundaries. America is now a divided country with three main governments: Mountain America, UFA (I never found what that stood for) and Pacifica. There are numerous independent southern states, known as the Confederate States, and areas that are not particularly habitable.

Life in Mountain America isn’t extravagant, but it is certainly better than life in one of the several Confederate States below the “Heatstroke Line”. Climate change has caused temperatures in the southern states to become a deadly 120+ degrees during summer months. Adding to their discomfort, the Southerners are plagued by “biter bugs”, a beetle that shreds skin and is very hard to kill.

Dan is called in to assist a team investigating an outbreak of biter bugs in East Montana where they shouldn’t be. After a failed visit to UFA, part of the team is asked to make a trip below the Heatstroke Line. Dan has been planning to obtain a new grant to study ways to control the biter bugs and although cautious, he is honored and excited to go on the governmental mission.

Dan’s intentions may be good but the people he meets quickly make the trip a nightmare, torturing one of Dan’s friends and kidnapping Dan. Dan is and forced to do research for a lab in Birmingham City. After several weeks, Dan is moved from a cell to live with a local family. The father is a member of the Unity Party which wants to unify the states again, but wants things done with strict American traditions. Dan discovers that the oldest daughter, 21-year-old Deborah, is a reader and a thinker. They share discussions about books and philosophical matters while Dan secretly plots an escape.

The story is engaging but I felt it bounced about a bit. Several of the characters, like Dan and Deborah, are well developed and have an integral part in the philosophical arguments the author presents to the readers. I appreciated that the author is making a statement about the need to be concerned about climate issue as well as making a statement provoking thoughts about whether men will ultimately compete to the point of self-destruction or help each other to achieve success together. There was a wonderful story within the story (written by Deborah) that added a somewhat parallel allegory.

Matters had to come to a head but it didn’t occur until the last 10 percent of the book. Then it seemed rushed and, while some items were tidily wrapped up, there were loose ends that left questions for me. This is an interesting blend of serious thoughts wrapped into writing that reminded me of weaker zombie stories.

I am reviewing this as part of a Pump Up My Book Blog Tour.


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About the Author:

Edward Rubin is University Professor of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University. He specializes in administrative law, constitutional law and legal theory. He is the author of Soul, Self and Society: The New Morality and the Modern State (Oxford, 2015); Beyond Camelot: Rethinking Politics and Law for the Modern State (Princeton, 2005) and two books with Malcolm Feeley, Federalism: Political Identity and Tragic Compromise (Michigan, 2011) and Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons (Cambridge, 1998). In addition, he is the author of two casebooks, The Regulatory State (with Lisa Bressman and Kevin Stack) (2nd ed., 2013); The Payments System (with Robert Cooter) (West, 1990), three edited volumes (one forthcoming) and The Heatstroke Line (Sunbury, 2015) a science fiction novel about the fate of the United States if climate change is not brought under control. Professor Rubin joined Vanderbilt Law School as Dean and the first John Wade–Kent Syverud Professor of Law in July 2005, serving a four-year term that ended in June 2009. Previously, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School from 1998 to 2005, and at the Berkeley School of Law from 1982 to 1998, where he served as an associate dean. Professor Rubin has been chair of the Association of American Law Schools' sections on Administrative Law and Socioeconomics and of its Committee on the Curriculum. He has served as a consultant to the People's Republic of China on administrative law and to the Russian Federation on payments law. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale.

He has published four books, three edited volumes, two casebooks, and more than one hundred articles about various aspects of law and political theory. The Heatstroke Line is his first novel.

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1 comment:

  1. Great review. This sounds like an interesting story. I think my husband might enjoy this, so I'm going to mention it to him. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings about this story.


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