Abraham Lopez’s Going Gone stretches two definitions at the same time. The cover names this an anthology, but the dozen short stories it contains all hinge on the death of a respected Middle-Eastern diplomat. A modern day Franz Ferdinand, Saiid’s death proves to be the first domino in a series of calamities that bring the world order crashing down.
Imagine Johann Kalsi’s The Corroding Empire set in a future as close as next week and you’ll get the idea. The initial story details the mechanics of the complex operation needed to penetrate Saiid’s security apparatus, with a parallel cat and mouse game played between the assassin and his employer. From there, the stories step through the immediate and long term aftermath of the assassination.
From the home of a semi-retired NSA bureaucrat struggling to save his family from the looming conflagration, the action moves to the initial ‘counter-attack’ against the American people by those who blame everyday Americans for the actions of the Deep State, with a brief look at how the Deep State lurches up from the mud to take control of a disintegrating America. But not everything is cloak and dagger and shadowy men calmly meeting the end in their Georgetown brownstones. The travails of aging rockers upstaged by the collapse, the fall of a Beverly Hills comedian when the tenuous forces of law and order evaporate, and the efforts of an honest journalist to expose a suicide cult caught up in things add a personal touch. Breaking free from the earth’s surface, Lopez even takes the reader on a sci-fi jaunt through the mind of the first AI as it plays its own role in things.
All of these stories make for a sad and gripping look at both the bangs and the whimpers of The End. And yet, the final two stories of survivors managing to outlast the turning of the great wheels end the collection on a hopeful note. They remind the reader that history moves in cycles, and for all the pain and suffering that occurs when the wheel of history dips down into the mud, better days will come when the wheel once again rises toward the sun. They make for a suitably hopeful denouement after all of the excitement and conflict of the preceding pages.
Also notable is the even-handedness with which Mr. Lopez handles the struggles within the book. He eschews the usual woke-casting of characters to bring us a Hollywood comedian we can root for despite his hypocrisy. We share the pain of regret of a man whose lifetime of sacrificing his morals for the safety of his nation come to naught. We cheer for a nosy reporter whose pursuit of the truth takes her deep into dangerous waters. We follow an aging cowboy on his last ride, and his Mexican saviors are not angelic propaganda puppets. These are all just people, well rounded and sympathetic and maddening, and freed from the strictures of modern politics they breathe with a life both sweet and bitter to behold.
Watching the world suffer such terrible ills isn’t for everyone, but Lopez manages to craft an apocalypse in bite sized packages and with enough variety to satisfy anyone. If you are a slave to one particular genre, you’ll grow frustrates with the variety of tales presented. Some are character studies. Some are action set-pieces. One is pure Campbellian sci-fi. But if you are a fan of great stories well told, and enjoy hunting for easter eggs of connective tissue, you should enjoy Going Gone.