Maggie got very sick from the flu. This might not seem unusual, but in fact, Maggie is one of the few people who survived this flu. The Superflu killed about 97% of the world’s population and left the rest in scattered disarray. After recovering, Maggie tries to get her life back in order, only to discover everything has changed. The Phoenix suburb where she lives is now mostly empty, the houses filled with rotting corpses. The few survivors left band together to form a new city government, and they begin the task of rebuilding the world.
Lisa Harnish’s CONSOLIDATION: Book One is not the usual type of post-apocalyptic story: there is very little violence and suspense. Instead, the story is given to the slice-of-life, day-to-day business of trying to rebuild society with only 3% of the population remaining. With the glut of zombie apocalypse stories and Mad Max ripoffs out there right now, this was an understandable decision on Harnish’s part, and it does make for an interesting read. At first, the book is filled with scenes reminiscent of the one in 28 Days Later where the characters gleefully raid an abandoned supermarket. Later, as the post-pandemic society begins to coalesce, the novel gets down to what seems to be its real bread and butter: politics.
CONSOLIDATION: Book One is, in many ways, a political tract in disguise, whether it knows this or not. The mutualistic cooperative society the survivors form is borderline anarcho-communistic in nature, and this book is at its best when contemplating and imagining a society without money or hierarchy. Granted, the novel never goes into the depths of, say, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, but it’s a refreshingly interesting take on post-apocalyptic fiction that isn’t very common.
The book’s biggest flaw is definitely the lack of any sense of loss. Despite the fact that the catastrophe has wiped out billions of people, the narrator never really dwells much on the sadness of it all. She only arrives at it indirectly, such as when she laments all the dogs in need of rescue now that their owners are dead, and the fact that fashion trends will start to stagnate due to the lack of both designers and consumers. Presumably, Maggie had family and/or friends that were lost in the cataclysm, but the reader never hears much about them.
CONSOLIDATION: Book One is a unique take on pandemic post-apocalyptic literature, but its uniqueness is sometimes as much a hindrance as it is an asset. Sometimes, it’s a perfect thought experiment, and sometimes it loses sight of the bigger picture in pursuit of the trivial and ridiculous.
~Chaz Baker for IndieReader