Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath
It's good to see a prominent figure like Ted Koppel addressing a security concern that remains off most Americans' radar. The unsettling thing, as proven by his research, is that a "lights out" scenario is largely off the government's radar, too. Koppel gained access to both current and former government officials and asked them about both preventative measures and contingency plans should the U.S. electrical grid go down.
Not surprisingly, the former officials were more frank than current ones in admitting that we don't really have a plan for a lengthy, wide-scale outage. Frustratingly, many current government officials dodge the question by downplaying the threat or sizing it down to something manageable, such as a one or two day outage in an urban area. The plan is...there is no plan.
As for what might have been done better...my qualms or really minor. I thought it unnecessary to focus on cyber attacks, since most grid-down scenarios would play out the same, whether a cyber attack, EMP, CME, etc. I thought Part 2 was a bit weaker than Part 1. Part 1 focuses on government preparedness and Part 2 on the preparedness of individuals and organizations (these are my generalizations, not the author's). I think most people with an interest in a grid-down scenario are already thoroughly familiar with the makeup of the prepper/preparedness community. Perhaps someone new to the topic would find the interviews more interesting or informative than I did, though.
Nevertheless, I'd recommend the book on the value of Part 1, alone.
Overall, a great book.
Run is a post-apocalyptic story set in modern-day Canada, but in an area so far north and remote that it’s a ten-hour drive to the U.S.-Canadian border. Civilization’s undoing in this book is a coronal mass ejection (CME) which affected it least large swaths of North America, and quite possibly the entire world, though news is correctly sparse under the circumstances.
A few items make this book rather unique, at least from a post-apocalyptic fiction perspective.
First, as already mentioned, it is set in rural Canada, and in in her Author’s Notes, the author says she intends this series to be “unapologetically Canadian.” Perhaps with tongue-in-check, she almost immediately mentions that the series will consequently include “a lot of apologizing.”
Second, the story alternates between two first-person perspectives, those of Matt and Nessa. Several scenes are first told from Nessa’s perspective, and then Matt’s, or vice versa. The two have set off from a small town and through the wilderness in hopes of reaching the perceived safety of a remote cabin, where Matt’s mother lives.
Third, there’s a romantic theme, with Matt and Nessa being drawn together emotionally even as the world falls apart and they fight off external threats. It is obviously not the best environment to develop a relationship in but biology is stubborn that way.
Though I’m American, I wasn’t too focused on the Canadian setting, really. It was an interesting angle, and was very well done, but it was a minor aspect of what would be a great story for any reader from any country. When civilization begins to crumble, and it’s you, your friends, and your family, vs. the world, I think we’d all do pretty much the same thing, driven by our own moral compasses and need to survive. Mother Nature doesn’t recognize national boundaries.
Some readers might suggest that the romance element is improbable, or even out of place. It’s not something you would commonly find in EOTW fiction, or at least not in this detail. I’d counter that EOTW scenarios would, in fact, lead to exactly this kind of behavior. Our need for human companionship would be greatly heightened if the world was falling apart around us. Being alone at a time like that would be one of the worst things imaginable for most people. Love would be right up there with food, ammunition, and shelter on every survivor’s list of needs.