A NOVEL SET DURING A PANDEMIC WHICH STARTED IN CHINA AND EXPLORES WHAT IT TAKES TO SURVIVE AGAINST ALL ODDS. THIS VERSION WRITTEN IN 2013, MAKES ONE FEAR HOW PEOPLE MIGHT REACT IF THE CORONAVIRUS, COVID-19, TODAY GOT WORSE, RATHER THAN BETTER.
Set in the near future, Sugar Mountain is a saga about the struggles of an extended family to survive a lethal avian flu pandemic. Within days, the world changes radically and forever as the infrastructure of civilized life crumbles. In short order, there exists no power grid, no internet, no media, no medical facilities, dwindling supplies of food, and, for most people, very little hope.
A committed pacifist, Cyrus Arkwright has been preparing for several years to make Sugar Mountain, his ancestral farm located in western Massachusetts, into a self-sustaining haven for his extended family. He is, in the modern parlance, a “prepper,” one of the growing number of Americans (that range from the militant right to the communal left) who are getting ready for some kind of apocalypse.
As the family in-gathers during that calamitous May when a deadly form of H5N1 begins its destruction of the human world, the Arkwrights are not only besieged by pleas from friends and loved ones, but realize they are vulnerable to the violence and lawlessness that is spreading with a contagion of its own. Having laid in supplies, devised basic systems, and established a self-sustaining farm, Cyrus, his wife Grace, and their three sons and their families become prime targets in a ravening world.
As national, state, and local governments shrivel to all but non-existence, it falls to son Jack, an Army Ranger veteran, to organize the defense of Sugar Mountain. It is Jack, over the protests of his father, who earlier acquired a store of weapons and now teaches the others how to use them.
The principal threat to the refuge arises in the form of the McFerall brothers. Men in their late fifties, Duncan and Bruce live with their families in a hollow several miles from the Arkwright refuge. For more than a century there has been a festering feud between the two families as to the ownership of Sugar Mountain. Empowered by the possession of stolen antiviral medicines and as a member of the National Guard, Duncan is in a position to command weapons and men. In the guise of suppressing “terrorism,” the brothers launch a systematic campaign of attacking and taking farmsteads in which they place their retainers. Sugar Mountain is high on this list.
In its situations, in its characters, Sugar Mountain explores the human species in extremis—that is, in those conditions that existed through most of our evolutionary history.