A look into a challenging future when climate change is denied, and one political party rules with a heavy hand. Purchase on Amazon.
Jerry Apps must be one of the busiest octogenarians around. In 2018 alone, the 83-year-old author penned new introductions for the second editions of two rural-life collections, Every Farm Tells a Story and Living A Country Year; added Once a Professor to his series of memoirs; and published his eighth novel, Cold As Thunder.
Set in the Wisconsin community of Crystal River, in a near-future that seems chillingly possible, Cold As Thunder (University of Wisconsin Press) is an odd yet compelling novel that borrows from George Orwell’s 1984. It introduces readers to a society in which the Eagle Party, led by U.S. President John Emery, has privatized schools, closed churches and libraries, and suppressed independent thought.
All citizens must read, memorize and live by a book titled A Guide for a Moral Society; most other books were burned years ago during the “Great Collection.” Meanwhile, drones provide constant surveillance, and climate change is ignored.
Apps, a passionate ally of the land who writes frequently about agriculture and country living, builds his story around a fierce storm that slams into Door County in Year 16 of the Eagle Era, destroying the homes and businesses of thousands of residents.
Many of them flee inland and set up temporary shelter on privately owned and militia-patrolled parkland — quickly turning the outskirts of Crystal River into an apocalyptic scene.
Enter the Oldsters, a resourceful and no-nonsense group of retired men and women over age 60 whose careers and personal lives were radically altered when the Eagle Party took control. Under the guise of serving the party, the Oldsters secretly encourage displaced storm victims to create an alternate society they christen New Start — built on a “barter credit” currency system that works effectively for almost all work and activities.
At only 224 pages, Cold As Thunder makes for quick reading, although it’s heavy on plot and light on character development. And about halfway through, you sense that Apps wants you to read this book more than once, as if it’s a call to arms to fight for what’s right.
Apps also takes this opportunity to get a little preachy, arguing for higher standards of environmental education. But the man’s not wrong, and his sense of humor remains intact. During a Church of Hope gathering in New Start one cool September morning, Pastor Larry holds up a tattered copy of a book he saved from the flames during the Great Collection. Its title? The Travels of Increase Joseph, by Jerry Apps.