If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.—Yogi Bera
“Yankee.” Apparently I’d been one all my life—growing up in California and going to school in Chicago—but I’d never really heard anybody say it outside of some Civil War movie. It was the eighties, and I’d just moved to Charlottesville Virginia, the new wife of a professor at Mr. Jefferson’s University of Virginia. There were a lot of other things I’d never heard before. Most were charming, like the way my friends’ children called me “Miz Barb”. Some were frankly mystifying, like the dinner parties where everyone ate using more forks and knives than I was used to, and then the men went in one room to smoke cigars and drink whisky while the women went into another room to trade recipes for homemade mayonnaise and drink sweet tea. (The tea made my teeth hurt, and I wondered if I should confess that all our mayo came out of Hellmann’s jars I bought down at the Piggly Wiggly.)
Some things had me checking the calendar to make sure I hadn’t misplaced half a century. That civil war with the Yankees that we thought was over slavery? Here it was the ‘War of Northern Aggression’ and it was over States’ rights. Desegregation and the civil rights movement? People told me about the local schools which had shut down two decades ago when the State of Virginia’s ‘Massive Resistance’ legislation to fight desegregation was finally lost. Instead, white parents sent their children away to boarding schools, or to new local private schools with names like Robert E Lee Christian Academy.
And once a year or so, the Ku Klux Klan would announce that they were going to hold a march in Charlottesville. Most years, they couldn’t get a parade permit, or people blocked them. But one year I caught sight of a group of them, casually strolling down the middle of the road, dressed in those iconic pointy-headed hooded robes. I was stunned. I thought we’d settled this stuff a hundred years ago. How could they be in the same world where I was going to my computer class to learn programming?
My new friends assured me that those bad old days were behind us, and Charlottesville was part of the New South. I was relieved to hear that those few hooded idiots were just delusional misfits who had no place here in the end of the twentieth century. I never stopped to consider whether they were still around, the tip of an angry, disenfranchised, looming iceberg.
Last week, in a country that is becoming increasingly polarized, we found out the answer to a question I’d never thought to ask. With a permit to exercise their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly, people gathered spouting hate and prepared for violence. Others, equally prepared for violence, opposed them. Both sides got what they came for. It wasn’t debate, or free speech, or an exchange of views. It was a brawl, violence, and death.
My father’s plane was shot down over Germany as he fought against the Nazi regime. Last week in Charlottesville, people were wearing quotes from Adolf Hitler and giving the Nazi salute. Dr. Martin Luther King inspired a civil rights movement that espoused nonviolence. Last week in Charlottesville, people opposed white supremacists with violence.
Everybody lost. America lost.
In a life-imitates-art twist, I’ve been reading Terry Tyler’s new dystopian thriller, Tipping Point. As I read about a society where it’s easier to close your eyes and ignore all the warning signs, I thought about Charlottesville and the consequences we might face if we refuse to learn the lessons of history. Please check out my review below for Tipping Point, a chilling example of what our future might hold.
Blurb: Tipping Point by Terry Tyler
I didn’t know danger was floating behind us on the breeze as we walked along the beach, seeping in through the windows of our picture postcard life.
The year is 2024. A new social networking site bursts onto the scene. Private Life promises total privacy, with freebies and financial incentives for all. Across the world, a record number of users sign up.
A deadly virus is discovered in a little known African province, and it’s spreading—fast. The UK announces a countrywide vaccination programme. Members of underground group Unicorn believe the disease to be man-made, and that the people are being fed lies driven by a vast conspiracy.
Vicky Keating’s boyfriend, Dex, is working for Unicorn over two hundred miles away when the first UK outbreak is detected in her home town of Shipden, on the Norfolk coast. The town is placed under military controlled quarantine and, despite official assurances that there is no need for panic, within days the virus is unstoppable.
In London, Travis begins to question the nature of the top secret data analysis project he is working on, while in Newcastle there are scores to be settled…
This is the first book in the Project Renova series; the second, Lindisfarne, is due to be published in September 2017, with the final instalment in the middle of 2018. A collection of outtake short stories, Patient Zero, is in progress, and should be available around December 2017.
- Book Title: Tipping Point (Project Renova Book 1)
- Author: Terry Tyler
- Genre: Dystopian thriller
Length: 448 pages
Publisher: Amazon Digital (7 August, 2017)
- Purchase Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Goodreads
Contact Links for Terry Tyler
A few days ago, I offered in a private message to help someone with his resume. Within the hour, almost every application I opened was inundated with ads for resume editing and assistance. Big Brother might not have been watching me, but big business certainly was.
Terry Tyler starts with a similar premise, and like the excellent writer she is, she pushes into its most extreme potential ‘what if’. What if big brother really IS watching you? What if ‘they’ know every single thing about you, your family, your favorite brands of coffee, chocolate, porn? Nothing new here, right? Well, then what if ‘they’ want to do more with that info than try to sell you more things? What if ‘they’ are going to use that info to decide who gets to live and who will die?
What if those flu vaccinations everyone is urged to get are actually a way to inject you with something far more sinister? And what if ‘they’ are prepared to make that happen?
Is there a point of no return, the tipping point where all the what-ifs add up to an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it shift? Where all the conspiracy theories you’ve laughed about are suddenly not paranoia, not when your friends and family are dying.
In the case of a pandemic,” he said, “it’s when there are more cases of infection than can be controlled by isolation—and, later, when there are simply not enough healthy people in authority to keep the basic needs of a society going, or to maintain order. Which is when chaos takes over. The problem is that no one recognises that the tipping point is about to be reached until it’s already passed.
Terry Tyler pulls together a dystopian cocktail with a distinctly current recipe: a shot of populism, a dash of Nazi racial cleansing/holocaust, stir in bubonic plague references, and top it with a jaunty paper umbrella that neatly covers all conspiracy theories.
After a rocky start as a teenage mother, Vicky Keating is finally happy with her life. She loves her coastal town of Shipden, her pretty house, her quirky daughter Lotte, and especially her smart boyfriend Dex. She laughs at his conspiracy theories, but reluctantly goes along with his request not to open an account on the new social media site, Private Life. Even as all of Dex’s conspiracy theories begin to come true, Vicky still believes that her world will continue. But as things start to break down, infrastructure topples, and people are dying in ever greater numbers, Vicky sees a corresponding breakdown of the things that glue a society together. Trust. Honesty. Friendship. Love.
Dex has disappeared, her town is under military quarantine, people are being killed by disease and increasingly, by each other. Realizing that her paramount responsibility is to keep her daughter safe, Vicky takes Lotte and flees across England to a safe house Dex had told her about. As social order completely breaks down, a tiny group of survivors has to invent a new reality, one in which you must be prepared to kill if you want to live.
In short, brilliant episodes, Tipping Point also tells other stories. At first they seem unrelated to Vicky and Lotte. Travis is a young worker who begins to realize the sinister implications of the project he’s working on. Scott, a hacker with the Unicorn group working to uncover and expose the conspiracy, is arrested, jailed, and forgotten. And as conventional checks and balances disappear, there are the ones whose violent behavior and self-gratification become their own justification—the criminally insane Wedge who escapes from the prison that no longer functions, the anger-fuelled clerk whose spur-of-the-moment action changes the course of the pandemic, and the many monsters who see the lack of police and government presence as license to butcher, rape, and steal.
As I was reading Tipping Point, I realized that it’s not so much about figuring out the world-ending conspiracy or stopping the forces of evil. (Which is actually lucky, considering that the economics and science involved here are sketchy at best, and ultimately irrelevant.) Instead, it’s the zombie apocalypse. “Dex said that the whole zombie thing was symbolic, that zombies were a metaphor for the masses who believed what they were told, had no nose for danger, didn’t have the survival instinct and believed that the authorities would save them.” As director George Romero said of the 1968 trope-defining classic, Night of the Living Dead, “Zombies don’t represent anything in my mind except a global change of some kind. And the stories are about how people respond or fail to respond to this. That’s really all they’ve represented to me.”
What Tipping Point adds to this are the individual faces and their responses to their new world. With the brilliant writing we’ve come to expect of her, Terry Tyler has created a character-driven story in the best zombie apocalypse tradition. Ordinary people step up to extraordinary deeds, learn how to defend themselves and their little group from the monsters, and try to hang onto the shreds of their humanity. As the various story arcs begin to converge, we realize that (with the possible exception of the criminally insane Wedge) the group of people at the end of Tipping Point are dramatically different from their beginnings.
I’m delighted to give Tipping Point five stars, and I look forward to reading the rest of this terrific new series.
***I received this book from the publisher or author to facilitate an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
[image credit: The Blue Skunk Blog]