If your conversations are anything like mine, perhaps you’ve been in a discussion with a fellow prepper recently when one of you has said, “The world we’re living in is like a dystopian science fiction story.”
My guest on DestinySurvival Radio was author Dan Haight, and we talked about his dystopian novel Iron Mountain, a prepper thriller that will tug at your heart. It is the second novel in the Flotilla series.
Why feature a work of fiction?
Isn’t there enough fiction for the prepper world already? It seems it’s become trendy with more being pumped out all the time. It’s hard to keep up with it all. And frankly, much of it doesn’t interest me.
But sometimes we need an escape–something that takes us somewhere else, but not too far out there to the point of being ridiculous. Iron Mountain is such a book. It presents a plausible scenario with believable characters in real places.
There’s one thing this novel portrays which I don’t want you to miss. I’ll say more about it below.
In fact, I have plenty to say below, but I won’t give away too much of the story. If you appreciate my review and the inklings of my conversation with Dan, then hear yesterday’s DestinySurvival Radio and read the book.
Dan’s books fit into the young adult category, but believe me, they’re quite enjoyable for adults. Iron Mountain is a thriller, but it will tug at your heart, too, because you’ll feel what the main character Jim feels as he struggles with allegiances and the desire to do what’s right while trying to survive in a dangerous, insane world.
Who writes this stuff anyway?
He’s Dan Haight, and here’s a mini bio.
Daniel Haight is a writer whose credits include the Flotilla series and many published short stories. As a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, he refers to himself as a ‘blue collar geek’ with a passion for writing, working with his hands and being a dad. A former disk jockey, Dan is talking about the Flotilla series on radio and podcast shows all over the world. He can be found online, interacting with fans through Reddit, Twitter and Tumblr. Dan is more than just a writer, geek and parent … he’s also an active prepper.
Fiction obviously comes from the imagination of the writer. A novelist who writes science fiction and dystopian stories takes elements of today’s world and projects them forward. That’s what Dan Haight has done. By the way, he and I talked a little about the difference between science fiction and dystopian novels.
What’s Iron Mountain about anyway?
Before I share a few thoughts about this novel, here’s a bit of a teaser.
In the near future, the United States explodes with violence following a massive nuclear and biological attack. Jim, a teen who lives aboard an ocean-based colony, weathers the chaos along with other citizens, but their safety is not guaranteed. Finding a safe place in a dangerous world will uncover desperate choices and painful truths. Jim might survive, but nothing will be the same.
Sequels don’t always live up to expectations, but I liked Iron Mountain better than the first book. It can definitely be classified as a thriller because there’s plenty of action and conflict. The story is intriguing and will hold your interest to the very end.
At the beginning of the book Jim finds himself on land, but not for long. Soon he and his sister are on another seasteading colony. Much of the story takes place there. Jim has it good there compared to his mom and stepdad Marty, who end up in a refugee camp. During Jim’s time at sea, the societal meltdown continues, and things get worse.
It’s this sort of thing that makes it all the more necessary for you and me who live in the present world to get away from a meltdown and any camps, if at all possible.
I hope I’m not giving too much of the story away if I tell you that Jim and his sister Madison finally get together with their mom and stepdad. But the joys of a family reunion are short-lived. Events in the latter part of the book become intense.
The story is told from Jim’s perspective. Two other characters–Doc Orchard and Holden–stand out as particularly memorable as the novel unfolds. While one claims to be on Jim’s side, the other one truly proves that he is.
If it’s been a while since you’ve read Flotilla, you’ll appreciate the way Dan starts Iron Mountain. He gives an overview of what came before in the first book as story events unfold. He does his readers a real service.
Dan believes in making his stories authentic as his way of showing respect to you and me as readers. For example, as with the first book, he lists geographical positions off the coast of California at the end of each chapter. You can plot where Jim and his companions are at, if you’re so inclined.
Early in the story, we learn one of the characters, Bob, has lost his son during a school shooting, which sounds very much like events of the Sandy Hook school shooting. Dan and I talked about whether that was or wasn’t the case. It’s one of the story elements that helps us relate to the characters and makes the book credible.
Don’t miss this!
It’s necessary to understand a little about Jim before I make my next point about one of the most important reasons to read this book. Jim’s a misunderstood 15-year-old trying to make sense of a world that no longer makes sense. He’s got his own problems as an alcoholic with a dysfunctional family. As a teenager, he foolishly yields to emotions at inopportunetimes, but shows amazing understanding at others.
Unfortunately, Jim is drawn in by a charismatic personality–someone who rescued him from trouble with a notorious enemy on board. He knows just what it takes to inflate Jim’s ego and win him over.
This man also knows a great deal about how the world works–what some would call conspiracies. Jim eventually learns that this leader isn’t who he claims to be. This is a hard lesson for him to swallow.
As Dan puts it, there’s a battle for Jim’s soul. He has to make the difficult choice of who to trust. Thankfully, events drive Jim to reality, and he gets things figured out for himself. It takes him quite a while to sort it all out though. While he’s not a hero, he makes a good stand.
Jim comes to the conclusion that trusting in the wrong people and believing in the wrong things can get you shot. This is instructive for any of us because you don’t have to be a teenager to be lured by a dynamic personality or get caught up in a cause.
For example, how many times have you heard well informed people promoting patriotism and begging you and me to join a cause? It may sound good, but they often propose the wrong solutions.
Or what about Christians who appear scholarly who belong to a cult or need you to help them start one? Maybe they’re trying to persuade you of a Biblically incorrect end of the world scenario.
Whatever the case may be, we face enticement from such as these quite often. How do we deal with these people and their notions? After all, they often do convey grains of truth.
My own concern about guys like the one who enticed Jim is not that they’re engaged in criminal activities, but rather that they work as an infiltrator working for the FBI or DHS. We each need to be mindful of both our passions and our weaknesses so we don’t become entrapped. The survival mindset calls for discernment.
Knowing the truth–or key parts of it–is important, but what do we do with it? Will we get involved in a distraction that hinders our prepping?
Aren’t thrillers supposed to be fun?
Yes, and Iron Mountain is. But we can draw life lessons from it. Dan packs those within the narrative, while not making it preachy or moralistic.
Useful skills Jim learned on his first seasteading colony prove useful on the new colony, too. This demonstrates the value of knowing and using several skills. He picks up new ones as well. You and I may have skills and talents we don’t use regularly, which could save us in a survival situation.
An attitude of pragmetism proved helpful for Jim. For you and me, the lesson is to make use of both the solutions and relationships with people which will work to our advantage at the time.
Life’s complicated. Once during Jim’s ponderings, he asks, “Why would anyone want to grow up?” Have you ever felt like that? I don’t have any desire to go back to my youth, but life is full of knotty problems. Let’s face it. Things are not as glamorous as they seem when we’re younger.
Loyalty is exemplified by Doc Orchard. Doc becomes one of the influential characters in Jim’s life. He takes on the mantle of mentor. He sets a positive example for those of us who have opportunities to mentor a young person. His loyalty to Jim and others is strong, in part due to his military experiences. Will you and I be as loyal to those around us in time of trouble? Will we find others who are?
Bluffing could save lives. Doc knew when to lie to get through tight spots. While I wouldn’t normally advocate lying, this is a commendable attribute in the right circumstances. As Dan put it, Doc said the MCT (minimal correct thing) and left others to draw whatever couclusions they would.
But why bring in politics and conspiracies?
It has to do with the charismatic character Jim’s drawn to. I won’t say more because you’ll have to read the story to see how it all fits together. However, I can tell you that Rex 84, Garden Plot and martial law are mentioned, showing Dan has some knowledge of these things.
But one of his characters says he fears “conspiracy nuts” more than the government. What do you say to that? As for me, I’ll take my place with the “conspiracy nuts,” even though I despise that term, because they’re closest to the truth of what’s really happening. Once again, discernment has to come to the foreground for survival.
In the novel, Doc says the societal meltdown they were going through isn’t like after 9/11. He believes people are too polarized to come together after acts of terrorism. What do you think?
How can you find out more?
Hear my conversation with Dan Haight when you listen to DestinySurvival Radio for March 13, 2014. (Right click to download.)
Dan and I talked about plenty more than what I can pass along here, including whether the Flotilla books might be made into movies someday. And there’s a third book to come. You’ll see why there has to be one when you read the end of this one.
To get Iron Mountain, click on its title wherever you see it linked in this post.