Sunday, October 11, 2020

Long In The Land, by Laura Montgomery

 A great good evening to you all, Internet friends and neighbors! And, to any family members who have dropped by, somehow we missed Pizza Friday, so we are had Pizza Saturday instead, and there are plenty of leftovers. Everybody is welcome, and there is cake for those who want dessert.

“Long in the Land” is the second book in the Martha’s Sons series, which gives us some backstory to the Waking Late trilogy, set on the planet which was Not What We Were Looking For, or NWWWLF.  The first book, Simple Service, I reviewed in September of 2019, in what was probably the worst review I have ever written; certainly, in the bottom five.

Here's the cover art, by Tom Edwards, followed by an Amazon Associates link to the book on Kindle. If you click on the link, and buy the book or something else, I get small change.

The following contains some material that was incompetently left out of the review for Simple Service.

The Dawes family lives some distance from the city of First Landing, where almost all technology is concentrated. The government of the city has things locked down tight, and they control production, the weapons remaining from the founding colonizers, and the means of training men at arms. 

Not content with his control over the people in the city limits,  the governor orders his troops to confiscate the weapons in the hands of the outliers, and those are turned in without conflict. Resentment grows, however.

The protagonist is Peter Dawe, the youngest of 10 children of Martha, the scholarly mother, and Nigel, who probably has some good points.

Actually, let me not be TOO hard on Nigel; he is, after all, a good provider, who has carved out a prosperous holding, in soil which requires much work before it will support life transplanted from Earth. And, since survival trumps all, I suppose he does finish with a score in positive digits. 

I must point out, however, that regardless of his abilities as a provider, he’s a lousy father. Prolific, yes, he is that. However, he appears to run his house with no regard for actually training his children in the ways they should go. Certainly,  he demands they work around the holding, essential life skills which are absolutely necessary for survival. But we are given no evidence that he considers the kind of example he is setting for them; his approach seems to be “might makes right; my way, or the highway.”

And THAT’S a life-lesson that son Simon, the next oldest brother to Peter, took to heart. From his earliest days, he went out of his way to torment Peter unmercifully. While it did equip Peter with a resolute character, it was a blatant misuse of his age and position on Simon’s part, and eventually, even Nigel noticed. 

However, being Nigel, he picked a rather stupid solution. Whereas he should have intervened when Simon was younger, and forced him to treat his younger brother with appropriate consideration, Nigel’s solution was to postpone intervention until the boys were older, and then force them to work in close proximity with each other. While it does show that Nigel was at least aware that there was a problem, he provided ZERO corrective instruction, supervision, or discipline, and consequently, Peter remained the butt of all Simon’s japes, and was further distanced from Nigel.

Peter has a plan to get the confiscated weapons back from the city, and Nigel forces Simon, unwanted, into the expedition. Peter manages to get back with the blasters, but the news of Simon’s death finalizes his alienation from the household.

He accepts a choice to flee to his oldest brother Edward’s farm, five days away. The surface reason given is that it will prevent the government me, who seek him as a blaster thief, from taking reprisals against his family. However, it’s largely agreed upon because Peter’s mother and father can’t bear the sight of him any more.

Shortly before he sets out, Peter and some other locals spot an aircraft, which is something never seen even in First Landing. There is a suggestion that it might be from the break-away colony of Seccon, an idea Nigel angrily rejects; he wants no discussion of the possibility of Seccon in his house.

Toward the end of his trip to Edward’s holding, Peter sees the aircraft again.

And the plot thickens…

Other significant characters introduce further plot developments: 

Silas Zeelander: the last pilot of the last aircraft; he hails from Seccon, the break-away colony, bringing his newborn son Zak. Zak is sickly,  suffering from failure to thrive. Silas used the plane to recon for a new nursing mother, and found Adelia, Edward’s wife. Silas has the hardest head, EVER. Having grown up trusting, he thinks everyone is trustworthy.

Elian Matlin: government man from First Landing, currently working for room and board at Edward’s farm. He’s looking for Silas’ plane, but knows of the hunt for Peter. 

Milo and John: First Landing residents who work for Edward during harvest. They are also informal spies for First Landing.

Megan, Robin, Laurie, Emily, and newborn Pearl: Edward and Adelia’s children.

Montgomery tells a GREAT story, and you can catch all sorts of similarities between the developments of NWWWLF and historical events on Earth. Don’t try to analyze that to death, though. 

Part of her story telling is her attention to detail. Here’s one example:

After an hour she had the kitchen fires banked, Laurie assigned to his post as lookout, three baskets of food of different sizes for carrying by all, including the smallest girl Emily, if not the infant Pearl, and they were ready to head out through the vegetable garden to harvest the toadfat. (Montgomery, Laura. Long in the Land (Martha's Sons Book 2) . Kindle Edition.)

How MANY times have we read about people setting out on adventures, with nothing more than a pocket handkerchief? True, sometimes that is done because it’s a plot component, but more often I think it’s because the author just doesn’t want to be bothered. Now, a MASSIVE attention to detail would likely bore everyone except a dedicated logistics officer, but please: let us not pretend that expeditions don’t take preparation and organization. 

Here, Montgomery strikes what I believe to be a perfect balance, between keeping the story alive, and giving us some insight into to the character of Adelia, a farm wife, who has become a master of organizational skills, just in the course of doing her job, every single day. She’s no Mary Sue, either; at other points, we see her suffer at the prospect of her children risking their lives. Nope, she’s an efficient, hard-working lady, who doesn’t need to be rescued, but isn’t afraid of delegating, either, with “here, you hold this baby for a minute, while I go feed that one.” 

Circumstances have prevented me from finding out if the series has been carried on further; if it has, though, I will be sure to read it.

Peace be on your household.

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