The Witch of Hebron & The Windup Girl Hello Buzzbin readers! Before I launch into this review, I wanted to take a second for thanking you for supporting a great magazine like Buzzbin, local retailers like the ones that advertise herein and for coming to events like First Friday in Canton, or Zombie Walk in Massillon. There is a definite feeling in the air that fun things are happening in NE Ohio, and we are, in fact, not the worst place in the United States to live. So, thanks! Now, on to the end of the world… Nuclear bombs, genetically modified organisms, global warming, sun spots, fossil fuel shortages, precious metal embargoes- the list of how the civilization experiment is going to end is a long one, with the tipping point always right around the corner. The good news is A) There’s nothing we can do about it; B) We might as well drink up; and C) many great books and movies have been produced kvetching over just such a thing. Everybody loves a good apocalypse movie, which seems to be the only place where the ideas of science fiction get transformed into watchable movies. Whether you like Mel Gibson’s “Road Warrior”, Arnold the Terminator or all-time greatest movie ever, “Red Dawn”, the mass audience seems to agree the future involves leather, shooting and mayhem. Luckily some filmmakers have been inspired by great writers to think beyond motorcycle fantasies and have produced some worthy pieces- “The Road”, “12 Monkeys” and “Children of Men” to name a few. Two recent books have come out that are not just cool movies waiting to be made, but also raise interesting questions about what is in store for the world. The Windup Girl is a science fiction romp set about a hundred years in the future. The book features huge technology advances from today. So-called “superbugs” have wiped out most life on the planet and the last thriving country is Thailand. Oil is no longer available, so most work is done by genetically modified elephants called megodonts. There are GMO-ed people as well, including the titular windup girl, a living Japanese sex doll named Emiko. She revolts against her programming and carries out a bloody assassination. The book has all kinds of things to love, like lots of foreign terminology (unless you’re Thai), plucky underdogs (go Hock Seng and Dog F***er) and, let’s just face it, a Japanese sex-doll assassin. The Windup Girl won nearly every major sci-fi literary award of the last twelve months, and deservedly so. It is well-written, has fast action and pretty much reads like the book equivalent of “Kill Bill”. It is out in paperback for $14.95 and I definitely recommend it. The Witch of Hebron is also post-apocalyptic, but a much different book. It occurs only about 15 or 20 years in the future after a combination of flu, nuclear war and technology breakdown has led Americans to living like Amish people, if the Amish didn’t hitch rides in minivans to buy cases of red pop and sweet tarts at Wal Mart (has anyone else seen this? Wtf??). The society is divided into several factions best described as Hell’s Angels, Plantations, skilled Townspeople, and Holy Rollers. Interestingly, the religious cults are not the “bad guys” you might think an east-coast liberal like James Howard Kunstler might turn them into. Actually they save the day in several instances and in general are useful citizens of a new society that lacks law enforcement, laws, paper money or electricity. Kunstler’s vision is quite positive: Birds and fish repopulate the wilderness, organic farming is the norm and everyone grows or brews their self-medication of choice. The conflict in the story is pretty light- a highway bandit causes mayhem- but the real thrust of the book is about how magical thinking once again takes root in American culture. One woman is thought to be a witch; one priest is thought to be able to kill enemies with his mind. The story is interesting because you know this isn’t “that kind” of science-fiction- magic spells, laser beams, force fields, etc.- but the inhabitants seem to have lost the ability to distinguish natural phenomena from magic. They have not lost the ability to scapegoat oustiders or to seek revenge with deadly consequences. It is the more thought-provoking book, despite having less action and no futuristic technology. Both books are excellent, fast reads available at Backlist Books, 39 Lincoln Way E., Massillon OH.