A new novel from Jerry Apps is published this week: COLD AS THUNDER.
Since the Eagle Party took power in the United States, all schools and public utilities have been privatized, churches and libraries closed, and independent news media shut down. Drones buzz overhead in constant surveillance of the populace, and the open internet has been replaced by the network of the New Society Corporation. Environmental degradation and unchecked climate change have brought raging wildfires to the Western states and disastrous flooding to Eastern coastal regions.
In the Midwest, a massive storm sends Lake Michigan surging over the Door County peninsula, and thousands of refugees flee inland. In the midst of this apocalypse, the Oldsters, a resourceful band of Wisconsin sixty-somethings, lay secret plans to fight the ruling regime’s propaganda and remind people how to think for themselves.
Q. Cold as Thunder is an intriguing title. How did you come up with it?
A. When I was a kid growing up on a farm in central Wisconsin, when times got tough, prices were down, the rains didn’t come, or a cow had been sick, my dad would say, “These times are cold as thunder.” I’ve never forgotten that, and the picture I paint in this book, especially in the early chapters, would clearly fit my father’s comment that these were times “cold as thunder.”
Q. Dystopian fiction is a new direction for you. What are some of the themes in the book?
A major theme is what consequences could be expected if climate change is ignored, and little or nothing is done to slow it down and plan for it. Another theme: what would a society look like if all agencies, services, and institutions such as education, roads, and healthcare for seniors were privatized, all forms of communication were governmentally controlled, and surveillance of all human activity was widespread? The book is set in a fictional future sixteen years after the Eagle Party gains the presidency of the country and majorities in both houses of Congress.
Q. Who are some of the characters you’ve created in this book?
A. There is a former university professor who was forced from her job. She now heads up a group of seniors called “the Oldsters” who secretly work to educate others. There is a teenager deciding whether to go to Canada to train as an undercover agent. A former CIA agent, now a “fixer” for the National Office of Social Responsibility, shows up to infiltrate the local Oldsters group. And there is Bill the Bartender, who works at the Last Chapter Saloon. It was a library before all libraries were closed.
Jerry Apps is the award-winning author of more than thirty-five books on rural history and country life, including his series of Ames County novels. He is profiled in two documentaries aired nationally on public television and is a professor emeritus of education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
He will speak this evening at a launch event at the Middleton Public Library.