While I was developing and researching an idea I have for a new writing project of my own I discovered The Borrowed World, a novel of post-apocalyptic collapse by Franklin Horton. One quick read through the jacket teaser for the book and I was instantly intrigued. The Borrowed World is a story of a series of terror attacks unleashed within the United States borders that deals a crippling blow to the nation’s aging infrastructure. As you may know, the topic of America’s crumbling infrastructure and the vulnerabilities it presents has long been a favorite of this writer and this website, so needless to say I was pretty interested to take a walk through Horton’s vision of this extremely plausible collapse event.
I am pleased to report that I was not disappointed.
The Borrowed World is exactly that, borrowed. The world we live in today in the United States is really a mirage, achievable only due to uninterrupted access to inexpensive energy and an interconnected web of systems so complex it is virtually indistinguishable from magic. In The Borrowed World, when those fragile systems are disrupted chaos ensues and we are fortunate enough to be along for the journey.
It seems that in the world of post-apocalyptic fiction these days, it seems you cannot escape a couple of common themes. Someone has been caught away from home and is always trying to get back after the collapse event occurs and you have to turn the lights out to set everything off. Not that either of these situations are bad or wrong in the genre in any way, but the story lines are everywhere. We see these themes in The Borrowed World as well, but Horton does not lead us down the well trodden path yet again. In this vision of an American apocalypse, our main character does not have the advantage of the superhero survivalist traits that you commonly see in the genre like being former military with special/advanced skill sets or being a pilot with survival success only the fortuitous location of a plane away or being so well prepared that the answer to seemingly every problem he will encounter resides in his stored supplies and he needs only to access it to save the day. Again, there is nothing wrong with any of these themes within the genre, but it is nice to see a different take on things.
In this world, our main character Jim is a moderately prepared husband and father that makes his share of mistakes along the way and is far from perfect as an man. Jim is traveling for work with some coworkers when the event occurs and his main motivation is simply to get back home to his family. He has his basic preparations thanks to his self-admitted paranoia, but is otherwise up a creek and a long way from home. Although he is with some people he knows, we see in a hurry that just because you may work with someone you may not look at the world the same way and in a crisis situation this will undoubtedly create some friction. Just because you’re friendly with someone does not mean you’re friends.
Along the journey back home, we see that Jim is forced to make some tough decisions and do some hard things. However, another reason I enjoyed this story is because we see that not every person encountered along the way is some criminal deserving of a bullet. I appreciate how small things like this keep The Borrowed World tethered to a plausible reality. To make the type of journey one might face during a real collapse level event would require a little help or a tremendous amount of good fortune along the way.
Another aspect of Horton’s post-apocalyptic world that I really appreciated was the description of what was going on back at home with our main character’s wife and children. Once again, Horton resists the urge to supercharge the characters by giving Jim’s wife Ellen an all-encompassing knowledge of all things prepping which would allow her to simply handle her business until Jim’s return (hopefully). Instead we see a mom with two young children that is just doing the best she can given the preparedness advantages that her husband has put in place for her family. By doing this, we also see children that have been empowered to take an active role in any preparedness success the family will have navigating the crisis at hand. Being a husband and a father myself, I could really identify with the idea and hope that my child will have the capability to be an active part of our family team. Not to say that this is required at all, her job would simply be to stay safe, but because it would mean that she had been involved in our lifestyle as she grew up and that she would simply want to do all she could to help out and that would make me very proud. Our children are innocent, adorable and precious, but that does not mean that they are not also fantastic little individuals with personalities and skills all their own that have something to offer to us all, especially during a difficult time. They would motivate us to do virtually anything to provide for them and protect them, but at the same time they would keep us in touch with our humanity with their love.
We also see that being the member of a group in a survival situation has advantages, the importance of knowing your neighbors, as well as the importance of family in this story. Although there are certainly a few headaches involved, Jim is grateful for having a few people he can trust with him on his journey. Back on the home front, Ellen is quickly reminded that she is glad she knows her neighbors and decides the best scenario for everyone involved back at home is for Jim’s parents to come out to their place for the duration of the crisis. This is not only important on an emotional level, but also on a tactical one. More able bodies means having a better opportunity to deal with security sufficiently or do the daily work of surviving.
The Borrowed World is an engaging and entertaining look at what a post-collapse world may look like to the moderately prepared every man. If you are about preparedness at all, I believe you will see at least a part of yourself in Jim and will be able to identify with him throughout the story. If you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic story that maintains a high level of plausibility and still pulls you to the edge of your seat, then I believe you will enjoy Franklin Horton’s The Borrowed World series. Wait, did I say series? Yes, I did. Book two in the series, Ashes of the Unspeakable, will be arriving soon so do yourself a favor and get up to speed on the The Borrowed World. You won’t be sorry you did.