Ill Wind
Kevin J. Anderson
& Doug Beason
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Get *Ill Wind* delivered to your door! Ill Wind
Kevin J. Anderson & Doug Beason
576 pages
March 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but with the whisper of decaying petroleum products. That's the apocalypse envisioned by Kevin J. Anderson, author of numerous "Star Wars" novels, and Doug Beason. In their third novel pairing, Ill Wind, the beginning of the end is an oil tanker spill in San Francisco Bay. Ill Wind deals with an unexpected end to the world as we know it and the attempts by the U.S. government to hold the nation together, for good or ill. A very readable and believable story, this book takes its place among other speculative visions of the way our world will end, and how the pieces will be picked up.

Curled Up With a Good BookAlex Kramer is a bioremediation researcher for oil giant Oilstar, cultivating natural microbes to clean up millenial civilization's messes. His Prometheus microbe is experimental, awaiting approval by the federal government for use in oil spill cleanup operations. Racked by the pain of leukemia and grieving the deaths of his wife and two children, Alex Kramer feels he has nothing to lose when the Oilstar tanker Zoroaster spills its entire cargo off the shores of San Francisco. He prepares a modified Prometheus for Oilstar to use in its defensive public relations plan.

Todd Severyn, a Wyoming cowboy who has worked oil all his life, is put in charge of the Zoroaster cleanup. When the tanker sinks before all its cargo can be offloaded, he takes Alex Kramer's Prometheus microbe up in a helicopter to spray the spill before the bioremediation process can be stopped by court injuction. What Todd and Stanford microbiologist and chemist Iris Shikozu don't know is that the microbe they release is a mean cousin to the samples Iris okayed for the operation. This Prometheus doesn't stop at gobbling up crude oil in a restricted area. It can feed on gasoline and most of the plastics made from petroleum -- the very fabric of modern civilization. Most frightening of all, it can spread through the air.

As the "petro plague" spreads across the globe, the Speaker of the House becomes president after the assassination of the President in the Mideast and the Vice President's death in an elevator malfunction. He orders martial law, and the armed forces are suddenly in charge of domestic law and order. Communications break down as quickly as petroleum-based polymers do, and pockets of totalitarianism spring up. Air Force Brigadier General Ed Bayclock, an efficient and deeply patriotic commander, takes charge of the Albuquerque area, brutally enforcing his strict brand of martial law -- including public hangings of curfew breakers and petty thieves. Spencer Lockwood's solar power research station is nearby, where small satellite solar collectors beam power down via microwave to an antenna farm that harvests and channels the power. His work becomes known to General Bayclock, and Spencer's power station is targeted for confiscation under martial law.

A downed naval pilot, a social activist, the Zoroaster's captain and the criminal responsible for the spill all play a part in how society begins reconstructing itself. As the central characters' lives intersect and diverge, humanity's rebirth becomes a hopeful possibility. Anderson and Beason have constructed a cautionary tale that avoids being preachy even while it coaxes us to be aware, to think. Ill Wind blows fair.

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