Critics across the country are heaping praise on Tribulation: A Novel of the Near Future by Thomas A. Lewis, editor of The Daily Impact and author of the 2009 book Brace for Impact: Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age. The novel picks up on one of the scenarios of collapse laid out in Brace for Impact, and imagines how it might play out. Kirkus Reviews calls it “A riveting, somewhat terrifying work of political speculative fiction…a thorough takedown of corporate statehood, blind wastefulness and human greed.”
Lewis says he was inspired to write the novel by a TED talk he heard broadcast a few years ago in which a storyteller made the point that humans are not wired to enjoy or retain facts, but they remember as good story forever. He thought it might be useful to array the arguments for impending collapse, as laid out in Brace for Impact, in a story telling how the crash might affect a family, and how they might react to it.
The story begins with Brian Trent calling his retired father, one day in the near future, to say, “We’re going to the Farm,” William reacts with alarm. Because Brian, a top reporter for The Washington Post, is really saying that he believes the country’s economy is about to crash, and he and his family are heading for a sanctuary they’ve prepared in the mountains of West Virginia. William does not believe that America could come apart…until he sees it start to happen, with unbelievable speed, the very next day.
Tribulation follows the troubled Trent family as they try to find their way through the ultimate collapse. Kathryn, Brian’s wife, just wants to live a normal life, and hates what Brian has been putting the family through to try to prepare for catastrophe. Too late, she finds out that clinging to normality in an unhinged world can get you killed. Daniel and Julie Trent are normal teenagers who are about to be challenged beyond anything they have ever imagined (losing cell phone service and the Internet is only the beginning). And then there’s William, the powerful patriarch, a skeptic about the prospects of collapse right to the end, who then becomes determined not only to survive against all odds, and to keep his family alive, but to find a better way of life on the other side.
It’s a “harsh, wonderfully written story,” says Penn Book Review, that is “written with consistent grace and a clear passion for its issues” according to Kirkus Reviews. Foreword Clarion Review says the novel “makes interesting and fresh predictions about the ultimate fate of humanity…gives the reader a sense of hope rather than dread.” Portland Book Review finds “The narrator…engaging, the language rich, the descriptions vivid and the book interesting.” [Read all the reviews in their entirety here.]
Lewis is a veteran journalist (National Wildlife, Smithsonian, Civil War magazines) and broadcaster (Voice of America) who has won national attention (New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, etc.) for his non-fiction books. He became alarmed about the state of the environment while working as the executive editor of the Time-Life Books 18-volume series on the earth sciences, “Planet Earth,” and later when, as roving editor for National Wildlife Magazine, he traveled from Alaska to Costa Rica to chronicle the distress of animals and their ecosystems. Eventually, he began to suspect that pollution and exploitation of natural resources had reached a point of no return. That conviction led to his latest non-fiction work, Brace for Impact: Surviving the Crash of the Industrial Age — and to the present work of fiction, which imagines how that crash might happen, and how an American family might deal with it. Lewis lives on a “sustainable-ready” farm in West Virginia where he has learned, he says, that “if my life depended on my sustainable-living skills I’d be dead now.”