”About three thousand years ago there was a Chinese artificer named Yan Shi who made a robot that looked like a person. It could walk, sing and dance. And it had an eye for women.”
It was clear from Billy’s expression that he was skeptical about such things.
“One day Yan Shi brought is robot to the king. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. The exhibition went perfectly until the robot started being lewd with the women. That incensed the king.
Yan Shi knew he would lose his life if he couldn’t get the king to excuse the robot’s behavior. So he dismantled it.
When the king saw all the parts, he was amazed. The robot had muscles over the bones. Tendons and ligaments. It had hair and teeth.”
Billy had stopped eating. His eyes were but slits, and he was looking at the Colonel sideways. “How did he make it?”
“I don’t know.”
“How come the Chinese can’t make one like that today?”
“Maybe they can.”
Yan Shi, the artificer. Photo kindly supplied by Benjamin Dancer.
The book begins with Billy searching for the family owned herd of Bison that has busted through the fence on their way to greener pastures. I can remember many times, first thing after school, hopping in the pickup with my Dad to go put some cattle escapees back in where they are supposed to be. We owned a couple of horses, but generally we used dirt bikes and pickups to chase cattle. My brother and I had some spectacular wrecks on those dirt bikes because ground is usually put to grass because it is too rough and unsuitable for farming. Trying to keep an eye on the cattle and an eye on the ground may have prepared our peripheral vision for playing basketball, but with obstacles such as grass masked holes, hollers, and chunks of rock it wasn’t infrequent for an OOHHHH SHIIITTT to be heard coming from one of us...usually putting a grin on the other. When four wheelers came along they were a lot safer alternative to negotiating abrupt changes in terrain. (Kansas by the way is not as flat as it has been made out to be.)
Billy is old school. He and his horse Maiden go out, and certainly more gently, convince errant livestock back into the proper pasture. (The instigator of the break outs is a bull named Moses...let my bison go.) Billy even rides his horse to school, a hundred year old flashback in time. His mom is dating the Sheriff. A man that Billy respects. Billy doesn’t fully understand his girlfriend, but then that is just par for the course for any teenage boy or middle aged man or a man in his twilight years. Life is feeling pretty stable for Billy.
That is until his Dad shows up.
Jack worked for the government. He did whatever they needed him to do to keep the world or at least the United States safe. He was a true believer in the inherent goodness of America and for a while he could justify anything to himself...until he turned. A friend of his father tries to explain it to Billy.
”Each betrayal takes another piece of you. Chips you down. Decades go by. The change is slow. Then one day you wake up and see her entirely differently.”
“America. You realize the woman you fell in love with as a young man has always been a whore.”
On his last mission in China Jack disappears and takes with him the very technology that he was supposed to steal for his government. It is a weapon, aptly named Yan Shi, powerful enough to sabotage the digital infrastructure of civilization, basically, this weapon if deployed takes us all back to the stone age, overnight. Now you might think that Jack is planning to have the big pay day by selling the technology to the Russians or to North Korea or maybe to Pakistan, but Jack is not interested in money.. He isn’t a traitor not in that sense. He is interested in the future of humanity. He is a man obsessed with growing human population numbers and now he has the power of a god in his hands.
”The growth of the human population as I write is estimated to be 1.3% per year. At the current rate of growth the population will double every fifty-three years. Six to twelve, twelve to twenty-four billion human beings in a century. To put those twenty-four billion people in perspective, the world’s population a hundred years ago was one point six billion.
Unfortunately, the resources required to sustain our civilization are not growing at the same rate as the human population. The United Nations estimates that 15% of the population goes hungry today. That’s nearly a billion people. The balance is off.”
Benjamin Dancer, truthsayer.
As Benjamin Dancer points out the American Farmer has increased production fifty-fold. Technology has kept enough food arriving at your local grocery store (for most of us), but if something happens; if the grid shuts down; if catastrophic things happen one after another; it will be like a row of dominoes that can not be set back up. That grocery store brimming with food is now out of food in three days... maybe less. Trucks are not moving, nothing is being produced. We only have what we have on Day ZERO. Two hundred million people would be dead after the first year.
Hunger is our predator.”
So only a madman would press the button that would spell doom for so many, right?
Jack has faced the reality of numbers that most of us are reluctant to even contemplate. If he ends the world now the cost will be considerable less than if he lets “nature” take it’s course. Two hundred million dead are only a drop in the bucket of how many would die in the first year of chaos in say fifty years. If you can convince yourself that humans are a plague on this earth it becomes a lot easier to press that button, but for Jack it is much more practical than that. He sees this as a chance to save humanity not destroy it.
Billy, his mom, and the sheriff find themselves thrust into the whirlwind of Jack’s life. Various government agencies are after him. With so much at stake, Billy and the people he cares about are mere chaff in the wind.
”Bullets ripped through the patrol car ringing the sheet metal; safety glass sprayed through the cabin; stuffing oozed from the sheriff’s seat; the rear window wasn’t there anymore; beams of sunlight pierced two long holes in the roof liner.”
This is just a small taste of a larger picture Dancer paints of bullets, fear, and determination as Billy finds himself pitted against a father he never knew and a world he is just beginning to understand. This book will send a shiver of fear down many of your backs. Even though I have been aware of the population math for some time, the way Dancer presents it made me have to take a long walk between a few chapters. I believe, because I am the eternal optimist, that we will make the necessary changes not only with technology, but with education.
Maybe if we get lucky/unlucky something will scare us enough to start thinking about the future and not just the present. Hopefully that won’t be something catastrophic, but just something that will give us a good knock in the head. Dancer kept my attention throughout the book. A team of wild bison couldn’t have kept me from turning the pages of this story.
Besides Yan Shi, Dancer sprinkles a couple of other real life people into his story.
”This is an image of Ed Wilson who represented the CIA through a front company (Consultants International). In my story (p148), Ed Wilson tries to get Jack to help in the Iran-Contra struggle.” Photo text and picture supplied by Benjamin Dancer.
”Howard Hart, the CIA station chief in Iran during the time Jack was there (p134). Hart actually filed the report Jack refers to in the story.” Text and picture supplied by Benjamin Dancer.
On his Amazon profile Benjamin has a great movie trailer about the book that you really should take a couple of minutes to see.http://www.amazon.com/Benjamin-Dancer...
I also asked Benjamin for a couple of free stories that I hope will give you some idea of his writing chops.
Stories by Benjamin Available for Free: