Category: Adventure


Straight up: you are going to get to the end of this book, and let out a little squeally gasp reserved for something slimy slithering down the back of your shirt.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Tony Bertauski has the uncanny ability to split and sustain a climax over a sequence of several events.  You’re hoping the heroine makes it out alive…the tension drops and immediately begins to rise…you’re hoping the heroine manages to save the rest…then the third time, you’re hoping the heroine has the ability to lay a whooping on that guy.

51pzT8Sl3ULIn Foreverland is Dead, Tony Bertauski creates a world that was first intimated in Annihilation of Foreverland.  While this place is alluded to, it is only a small element of that tale.  This world is entirely different, and lends a new meaning to ‘the cold, harsh world’.  Annihilation of Foreverland isn’t required reading to enjoy Foreverland is Dead and it doesn’t matter which you read first.  The plots are completely distinct and where the stories overlap, they are not hindered by too much or too little information.

While Annihilation of Foreverland ponders some philosophical ideas, Foreverland is Dead contemplates them with much greater earnestness.  Tony Bertauski presents concepts that have been the burden of philosophers since man began thinking.  He explores the meaning and complexity of self and reality. He asks who are we, and who we are at the same time.

What does it mean to ‘be’? Do we consist solely of our bodies? Or are we the thing inside? What comprises the borders of our selves?  Are we nothing more than the sum of our memories, and if so what becomes of us if our memories are lost?

What defines reality? In Annihilation of Foreverland, a character declaims, “Reality is what we perceive in our minds.”  The reply, “That is the definition of delusion.”  If reality is not what we perceive  (and how can we know what is strictly a mental perception or what is an accurate representation our senses give of the world around us?) then how do we determine reality?  Is this a dream, and if I wake from this dream, how do I know that I am not waking to the dream of my dreaming?

In the midst of this, Bertauski weaves a well-crafted tale of exploitation, selfishness and deceit.  Yet, Foreverland is Dead is a greater tale of strength and survival.  To find the way in a world that has undefined rules with very harsh consequences, when resources are scarce and not all are who or what they seem, somehow, six young girls manage to waken from that very dream.  What they awaken to, however, is a question of reality.

Bertauski infuses his stories with hard concepts and encourages, even challenges his readers to answer the question for themselves.  Not many authors can claim success at telling the story and being responsible for answering the questions raised.  I’m hoping there is another Foreverland story out there that might take up where that squeally gasp left off.

This is probably the best philosophical science fiction I’ve read in years. I’m looking toward Bertauski’s other series to draw me in like this one has.

There’s a limit to everything, and at some point you have to ask yourself if you are capable of stepping beyond that limit.  Are you capable of truly identifying reality and yourself?

laconiaLaconia:  I’ve heard your pipes, I’ve seen your tats, boobs and bellies.  Your piercings and your paint jobs.   May I be excused from Sturgis and Daytona, please?

Seriously though, when we first got to Weir’s Beach, my thought was, this is it?   This is all Laconia and presumably Sturgis and Daytona are about?   White tents with cheap crap?  People jam packed into narrow lanes between vendors and bikes, looking at, being looked at?  See my colors? See my pins? See my scars?  I’m sorry.  I’d really rather be riding.

That was my trip to Laconia.  Now about the rest of the weekend.

We rode up on Friday and about 40 miles outside of town my bike went dark in the middle lane of bumper to bumper traffic on the tollway.  I pushed it across two lanes to the side of the road when an ANG halfback stopped to let me through and conveniently blocked the other lane.  It was an electrical issue that I was sure of, and I hoped if I let it cool off, it would fire up.  Sadly, no.

There I sit leaning on my bike, waiting.  A bus full of little kids goes by, and they all turn down their windows and yell, “Hi! Biker Lady!!”  Ok, that was pretty cool. Then a small car with what is clearly a grandma, a mom, and a little girl goes by, and the little girl calls out, “Hi!”  The grandma says something to the little girl and she turns back and says, “Are you ok?!?”  Yep, I’m fine, and tell your grandma she’s pretty cool too.  Then another car goes by and the little girl leans out the window and says, “Hi, BlackJayne!!” and I wave.  Then the car is in the breakdown lane in front of me and I walk up to the window to say, “Hey, no, it’s all good…” when I look in the window I realize it’s my neighbor. “Hey, how’s it going? Wanna take me into town to buy a battery for my bike?”

How undignified can it get?

The battery seems to fix things, my riding partner shows up after a long complicated set of maneuvers to get back on the tollway below me and headed in the right direction. We get up to Laconia about 5 hours later than we were shooting for.  Go to the bar, grab some food, hit the rack.

Saturday, we checked the bike, seemed to be fine. Start up, run, no funkiness.  For logistical reasons, we take the other bike to Weir’s Beach.  We get a good parking spot, we have a chance to enjoy the scenery.  Five thousand bikes parked on the road, in the boardwalk, at the various lots (some lots up to 5 miles away) at any given time. Another couple thousand give or take, on their way in or on their way out.

Yippee.  Can I go home now?

Sunday we ride the Kancamagus (Cank-uh-MAY-gus) over to North Conway and plan to ride the Daniel Webster Highway back around.  We ride the Kank.  (A really nice ride if you’re ever in the area; car or bike, Winnebago, bicycle you name it. Nice ride.)  Get to North Conway stop for a drink and a stretch. The bike won’t start. Not only dead, but D-E-D dead. Can’t find a new battery. Get a trickle charger from the Harley dealership a mile up the road.

Ok, this part sounds much funnier than it was. We sat in Dunkin’ Donuts for an hour and a half and played cribbage while we charged the battery.  Oh, yeah, living the dream there.

Get the battery back in the bike. She fires right up. We get out on the street and I hear “Puh. Puh, puh-puh. Gasp….” Awesome.  I push it into the Circle K parking lot.  We talk about our options, don’t really like any of them.  Cram all our shit into the other bike, go in and ask the manager politely, “Please do not tow my bike, I promise I will be back for it in the morning.”

We ride back to the hotel, which is about 40 miles away, back over the Kancamagus.  It rains. Hard. The road is still windy-twisty and beautiful. And wet. An hour and a half later, we’re showered, and in the bar again, looking forlornly at the menu which is not in the restaurant where we had planned to eat.

Our best alternative is to rent a truck. We have no vehicle to pull a trailer.  There is no service dealer anywhere within 100 miles, and truly? I want my guy to work on my bike, so I know what my problem is.  Not what some guy with HD plastered on his shirt wants to tell me.  I call work, “Sorry can’t be there tomorrow, I’m busy.”

Monday we get up, we ride the bike crammed full of ALL our stuff now that we’ve checked out, back across the Kancamagus.  Bright sunshine, twisty-windy, fresh air ..…small RV…..  young male moose, trotting across the road.… (Please god, please god, please god… do not let the RV hit the moose, it will mean bad things for all of us, and I have enough bad things going on right now, I’d like not to add a moose to my problems.)  I’m not sure how late it was before he saw the moose, but the moose definitely saw him and was happy to keep on moving before we all got there.

Pick up the truck, which is big enough for both bikes, so we put the one on, drive to get the other. Put the battery back in it (having trickle charged it over night) get it lined up to go up the ramp and in the truck. ….Last chance….  …breathe… fire it up and goose it just enough to keep the ka-pow from starting. Hit the ramp straight and enough speed to get it over the hump at the top. Screech to a stop narrowly avoiding the first bike. “Gasp, puh, puh-puh..” …sigh…  (I go back in the Circle K and tell the nice manager, “I have taken my bike, it has not been stolen, and thank you very much for your consideration of my plight.”)

We drive it all the way back to my guy.  He’s expecting me, having talked to me while I was sitting on the highway, and again as we came into the city. We take both bikes off the back, he keeps mine, the other heads to the U-haul place and I follow in the truck.   We drop the truck off, I pretend I wasn’t driving since I wasn’t on the list.  Something about tickets and suspended licenses and like that.  We again pack the last of our crap into the other bike, and ride back to the house.

I have never been so glad to go to work the day after a long weekend.

In the end, my guy replaced a fried voltage regulator and rewired some accessories that had been put on over the winter.  I really like my guy.

This is a trip I will probably remember for the rest of my life.  But not because I went to Laconia.

He had me at “like a gang of schoolyard bullies…”

Artie

“Let me tell you a little story…we’re all going to die.”

Finally, we have an author with enough imagination to label his victims something other than “zombies” and to create a virus with a full spectrum of symptoms.  Not only has Artie Cabrera envisioned a world where Deviants roam the borough of Queens, he has the audacity to provide an intriguing and plausible origin for our post-apocalyptic future.

The Journals of Charles Dudley and Side Effects chronicle the aftermath of the release of a mysterious virus.  At least that’s what Charles Dudley can determine as he wanders through the wreckage of his old neighborhood.

Artie1We start with Charlie burying the remains of his best friend in a guitar case, and hosing the rest of him into the sewer.  He can’t believe he could ever do something so revulsive, and yet every day brings some new debasement, some new degradation that must be faced unflinchingly.  And yet, every day Charlie does what’s necessary to survive then berates himself for becoming a monster.  He learns he must assess his life in terms of today and tomorrow; yesterday has nothing to do with it.

Cabrera is slick, creating a narrative that exists solely in the mind of our hero.  Charlie’s journal comes complete with snarky side comments, and the wishful elaboration of details.  He tells two tales:  the nasty, ugly, gory struggle to survive the day, and the nasty, ugly, gory struggle to survive childhood.

As Charlie comes to terms with his surroundings, he begins to reflect on life before.  Life is shitty, and Charlie is brutally honest about the details.  His story is both stark and vivid, a man as broken as the world outside.  His life has been defined by his father and as he contemplates his upbringing, he begins to realize how angry his father was, how angry he is.  The question:  does he know how much like his father he has become?

Cabrera captures the internal voice. You know that voice in your head every morning, grumbling on the way to work.  This is not the voice of the objective observer. It is a running commentary on everything you see, everything you hear, taste, touch and smell.  It is a tangle between the calm recitation of fact and the strangled half-finished thought. Cabrera’s writing is taut, funny and sarcastic. He makes Dudley’s observations into shards of glass reflecting the decay around him.

I’m not sure why Side Effects was published after I’m Not Dead.  Its random back references to events in I’m Not Dead would be the perfect lead in to Charles Dudley’s journals.  Side Effects will suck the reader in, offering one last gasp before descending into chaos.

An Extra Goody