It is the summer’s great last heat,
It is the fall’s first chill: They meet.
–Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt
The very last moment of summer, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, is at 10:28 p.m. on Monday, September 22. The next minute marks the autumnal equinox, which is “defined as the point at which the sun appears to cross the celestial equator from north to south.”
As if. As the old joke goes, we in Canada don’t have autumn, just summer and winter. Still, these moments mark change. In honour of the last days of summer, here are a couple of books with the word “last” in their titles. (Both are filed in adult fiction in the Lennoxville Library.)
First, The Last Centurion, by John Ringo (2008). Ringo is an occasional Fox News guest and a prolific, and best-selling, American author. Last Centurion is a sci-fi-tinged military adventure novel, where things blow up real good and every piece of US army equipment is lovingly detailed.
The story takes place a handful of years in the future. It is a vicious satire of the American left. Our hero is a US soldier, Bandit Six, left behind with his unit in a Middle Eastern desert to watch over abandoned munitions. The Americans have pulled everyone else out because of a plague that will, in the end, kill millions.
The first third of the book looks at how the US deals with the plague within its borders, and this paired with a sudden mini-ice age (global warming is a crock). In response to the crises, the orders of liberal politicians lead to death and famine.
The middle section details Bandit Six’s struggle to survive in the desert (female refugees are allowed into the camp if they agree to wash clothes and sleep with his men; Iranians are “reasonably hard workers” while Arabs are not). The last third features our hero’s efforts to defeat hunger upon his triumphant return to the US (he is a farmer by trade).
The narrative is conversational and profane (it’s a 600-page blog post) written by a charming know-it-all. Bandit Six offers his analysis of Middle Eastern culture as easily as ancient Greek history and “common sense” political analysis.
Here’s a second offering: The Last Raven, by Craig Thomas (1990). This is a far more traditional narrative, a British spy novel. Sir Kenneth Aubrey is an old man, promoted to the job of spymaster. Can he keep up with the Russians?
If only they were the enemy. But it seems there might be a group of rogue American CIA agents who’ve taken it into their heads to sabotage that small glimmer of openness dubbed glasnost. A collapsing USSR adds instability, and they want none of it.
Aubrey attempts a rout, but is caught out at every turn.
Finally, there is, it appears, one man he can trust: a PTSD-suffering field agent named Patrick Hyde, who can barely keep himself sober.
The action moves from London, to the mountains of Afghanistan, to Russia and California.
The late Craig Thomas wrote 18 Cold War spy novels; his most famous, Firefox, was made into a movie with Clint Eastwood. Thomas’s books are “techno-thrillers”, where “cutting-edge military hardware extrapolated from current technological advances – is central to the plot,” as one fan has noted.
Still, Thomas doesn’t lovingly caress each missile launcher in the way of John Ringo.
– Eleanor Brown, September 19, 2014