Steven Gould has created a very plausible apocalyptic scenario in his latest title, 7th sigma. Plausible as in how the people who stay or migrate to the “bug” infested territory, comprised mostly of Arizona and New Mexico, adapt to a retro-lifestyle reminiscent of the old west, minus the use of metal in any shape or form.
The flying bugs are mechanical, and no one knows where they came from. They feed on metal: the steel framework in city buildings, the rivets on a pair of Levis, or the fillings in a person’s mouth. And they will swarm upon and tear through whatever is in between them and a meal of steel, copper, iron… you name it. As a result, the desert southwest is now inhabited by a hardy and rough breed of individuals, in a society that brings out the best and the worst of its members.
The main protagonist is a young teen runaway, Kimble Monroe, who has a high set of morals and standards. He becomes a student to a female aikido master / surrogate mother, and follows her into New Mexico for a lifestyle of simplicity and discipline. Bartering is common, and knowing a method of self-defense makes sense in a land where guns and knives are not as prevalent as they used to be. Kim is a man of action, using his abilities to stay calm under fire, always coming to the defense of those in need, while knowing when to resort to physical violence at just the right time.
Kim’s talents catch the attention of the Rangers, the government’s long arm of the law, arresting weapon smugglers, drug dealers, and thieves. He is recruited to go undercover on more than one occasion, at great danger to himself.
Readers who live in the Southwest will recognize many of the landmarks mentioned throughout the book. They might even recognize themselves as the territory dwellers that grow their own vegetables, raise free range chickens and cattle. The Buddhist-like approach to surviving in this rugged environment will also be similar to many who live in the Land of Enchantment.
Gould ends the book by leaving open the questions about the bugs’ origins, and the manner in which they are evolving into something that is much more scary and puzzling. I have a feeling we have not seen the last of Kimble Monroe, and I can hardly wait for his return.