In a world where corporate greed has become the new fascism, where food has been deliberately poisoned by GM to control the masses and where fossil fuels are so limited only a small percentage of the population can access them, your best bet is to be born rich. Failing that, you have to be very smart and ready to do whatever it takes to protect your family.
When Anderson Carmichael, the richest man in the world, takes his son on a sightseeing car ride from New York to Boston, he wasn't planning on breaking down. But since the rare and ancient Hummer he's driving slips off the road and he and his boy are left stranded, what else is he supposed to do but let the local mechanic fix it? He's stunned that one of these people - these penniless workers left sick by the poisoned crops they grow - has the knowledge and skill to fix his car. He leaves the mechanic an IOU before taking off in his repaired Hummer and driving away, confident it's the last he'll ever see of Henry Weller.
But Henry Weller, isn't your usual Empowerment Zone guy. Not only is he super-smart, his five year old daughter, Penny, is going blind from eating bad food. And since the richest man in the world has left him an IOU, he decides to call him on it. This means a journey of several days, on foot, from Connecticut to New York, with his daughter on his shoulders and who knows what between them and their destination.
Sam Winston's main character, Henry Weller, is introduced as a quiet, gentle and generous man who sees no distinction between himself and Carmichael, despite the latter's privilege and wealth. When Weller is later pressed by circumstances, he demonstrates a stunningly deep and pragmatic core. His placid obstinacy in the face of threats and outright danger make him a force to be reckoned with and even Carmichael finds himself indulging him - at a price.
In order to gain the health care his daughter needs, Weller must embark on a far more dangerous journey to a destination even Black Rose, Carmichael's private army, dare not go.
The backdrop for all of this is a stricken United States, under-populated and fallen to ruin. Where populations do exist, the people are tied to PharmAgra, the only food company in existence, who cleanse the poisoned crops the workers have grown. The workers must then buy it back as food, or eat untreated stuff and suffer the mutations and disease this entails. The distribution of wealth and power is so unbalanced in Winston's world, it is reminiscent of medieval feudal society, even to the point where people wear brands (sub-dermal smart-chips) to announce their position.
On the minus side, the writer's style is slightly unusual and takes a bit of getting used to - there were a few points at which I had to re-read in order to work out what was intended. Once or twice the point of view wandered from one character's head to another, again disengaging me from full immersion with the story. These are minor issues - the story itself is terrific.
Besides, it's worth a read just to get to know Henry Weller, who is a true gem of a character.
You can purchase this ebook on Amazon.
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