Book Review — Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker

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Tomorrow is the Pennsylvania Book Bomb, meaning if you are going to buy Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania Omnibus, tomorrow is the day. If you buy the paperback on Amazon, you can get the Kindle version for just 99 cents thanks to the Matchbook program. This is a great work of science fiction and encourage everyone to give it a try. My interview with Mr. Bunker from last week, can be found here

Bunker_PENNSYLVANIA_Omnibus_EbookEdition-640x1024In preparation for the Pennsylvania Omnibus launch, I went back and re-read my reviews for each part of Michael Bunker’s science fiction serial. I was reminded that I was amazed by the beginnings of the book and that I wouldn’t be surprised by any measure of success by the author.

Part of my review for Pennsylvania 1, read:

“If I went to sleep for nine years like the main character, Jed, does in “Pennsylvania” to awaken up to find Michael Bunker dominating bestseller lists, I wouldn’t be surprised. As I read Pennsylvania, I was struck by reminders to so many standard-bearers in the sci-fi field. Asimov. Heinlein. Bova. Scalzi.”

I grew up a huge Isaac Asimov fan, which meant I quickly grew to love the writings of Robert Heinlein as well. The space-age sci-fi transitioned into Ben Bova and now modern-day with the books of John Scalzi (Old Man’s War & Redshirts).

Then I stumbled upon Pennsylvania. Stumbled upon may not be the best turn-of phrase, but when you read a short story by a bearded dude in suspenders who lives off the land and generates his electricity by solar power, you may not be prepared for the story you find.

Bunker definitely derives a good chunk of his story from his “plain” lifestyle, putting his protagonist Jedediah Troyer in a “Stranger in a Strange Land” situation. Jed, is Amish, living in a future world where people can access the Internet via a chip in their heads. Jed is headed to New Pennsylvania where he will help establish a new Amish community.

As a reader, we identify with Jed in this story. We are just along for the journey in this futuristic, alien world, and Jed, with his simplicity and innocence, acts as the perfect vehicle for the audience. We are Jed and are forced into this new world and are just as confused as he is.

As great of a protagonist as Jed is in the book, I daresay Bunker’s supporting characters are even better. Jed befriends a number of people throughout the books, notably Dawn, a woman whose interests in Jed may have a number of motives. I find the character of Jed’s brother, Amos, perhaps the most fascinating and would love a book series focused solely on him. When Jed leaves Earth in book 1, Amos is a 14-year-old younger brother, but when we meet him again later on in the book, he is aged considerably, both by time and experiences. What happened and who is this man?

The trip to New Pennsylvania isn’t as easy as Jed is led to believe and that journey has its costs. By the time he arrives, the planet is fully at war – both in an active and Cold War capacity – between two groups: Transport and TRACE. We get more characters and more and more revealed as the story moves on. Just as Jed learns what is really happening all around him, the audience is slowly clued in as well.

The book is a great work, alternating between moments of calm with the Amish lifestyle, and anxiety with the pending war between the two factions on New Pennsylvania. The simple life that that Amish lead with the chaos and politics of the “English” world raging around them. Bunker has painted a brilliant picture of this dichotomy by showing the differences between Jed and Amos. One content to be plain – the other aware of a different calling on his life.

By the time Pennsylvania ends, it is clear this is a big story and too big for just one book as Bunker has already made plans for the sequel – Oklahoma. Sign me up for the sequel and some more Amish science fiction.

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