The sheer diversity of output possible in the brave new world of self-publishing serves as both blessing and curse. The crumbling walls allowing authors to skate around the gatekeepers also makes it a lot harder to find the needles of quality buried deep inside the literary haystack. Which probably explains why you’re here – hopefully the staff at the Castalia House blog helps fulfill your your straw-sifting and needle-hunting needs. Kevin Trainor offers readers another way for readers to take his fiction for a test drive with The Anti-Dog Tank and Other Stories.
For just under two bucks he provides five short stories, vignettes almost, about the harsh realities of life in a world following the failure of the American experiment. As history bends towards the next turn of the generational cycle, social media is awash with those licking their chops for a chance at living a grand adventure free of the stifling strictures of the modern, complex world. These five stories provide a useful corrective to such fantasies. Set in a hard-nosed reality bound not just by the laws of physics, but also by the laws of human social interaction, Mr. Trainor paints brief scenes of heart-wrenching choices and grim reflections on the callous nature of conflict.
Good and honorable men wonder at the need to fight impressionable youths mislead by utopian dreams peddled by distant oligarchs. The plans of wealthy men crumble in the face of the dire realities of a broken social order. When offered the chance, how do battle-hardened men react when offered a chance at petty and pointless vengeance? What do the men in the trenches do when asked to fight a war against aliens of mankind’s own creation?
These are not the happy-ending post-apocalyptic tales where the protagonist fights his way to the top pf the pile of skulls, nor are they tales where wandering heroes rescue supermodel harems from the clutches of inhuman kings only to walk stoically into a dusty, irradiated sunset. These are the tales of the end of Pax Americana as it shall surely come pass. On the plus side, they are short – small doses of cold water thrown on the fervor for a civilizational reset. And while not the sort of fare that leaves the reader with an uplifted spirit, they are hopeful in their own, strange way. Like any bitter medicine, they can help the reader understand that the pain of such revolutionary societal changes is a pain that can be endured. The price for the next great boom-cycle can be paid. And that while such dark days are inevitable, they are also survivable.
Perhaps in its own way, a collection of stories like this can help inoculate the reader to the pain of dark days and help steel his resolve to be one of the survivors.
And if Kevin Trainor fails to elicit an emotional or intellectual response in the reader, we can all take solace in knowing that, while it lasts, we live in a world where a short collection such as this is both cheap and readily available. When we readers are forced to return to vellum and leather bound books while staving off roving bands of cannibal motorcycle gangs, we’ll appreciate it all the more!