Ad Astra: science fiction: Millennial Reviews XXX After Things Fell Apart -Ron Goulart

Millennial Review XXX by James Nicoll

After Things Fell Apart by Ron Goulart

After Things Fell Apart
Ron Goulart
Ace, 1970
189 pages

It would have been funny to have some extremely raunchy sex-SF in this spot. I don't seem to own any.

Synoposis: Jim Haley is an agent of the Private Investigation Office in San Francisco (or 'Frisco', as the young folks call it in ATFA) Enclave some years after the collapse of the USA and an abortive Chinese invasion. A terrorist called Lady Day and her gang of mankillers is kidnapping prominent men in the SFE region and killing them. The PIO wants this to stop and Haley is send to look into a lead out of SFE, into the jumble of microstates surrounding SFE.

After negotiating his way past a turf fight between the Natty Bumpo Brigade and the folks from Black Sausalito, Haley makes it to Olden Town, which appears to a Renne Fair gone horribly wrong. The lead he gets takes him to the Nixon Institute and from there to San Rafael, where Penny, his lead is working at an Amateur Mafia nudie Swing Music joint. He manages to sneak her out under cover of an attack by the real Mafia.

Penny got recruited into ManKill sometime earlier by a fellow named Plastino, who runs several local businesses, including a motel. Penny manages to get kidnapped by the Lady Day folks and Haley has to track her down again, starting with a film company specializing in gay westerns and ending up with an infiltration of an odd mental institution. Haley discovers the Lady Day folks need a mobile computer. He knows where one is, in a strange motel run by former agents of the FBI. He and the FBI agents take out the commando sent by Lady Day. Haley leads a covert infiltration raid with the help of La Penna, a sex crazed PI op, and they rescue Penny and some other hostages.

In a final raid, Lady Day is captured. Haley and Penny end up together, a happy couple [as happy couples go in the ATFA world].

More stuff happened but the book is mostly an excuse for a madcap rush through the demented world After Things Fell Apart. This isn't a book you want to think about too deeply: the timetable doesn't seem to make sense. Actually, trying to thing about the plot and history of ATFA makes my head hurt: If Haley's parents met and were married in '84, and it is still the 20th century, how can he be as old as he seems to be? The book's plot involves a lot of strange events I left out.

There are some scenes which were unexpectedly sad: the eldery rock musician at the Nixon Center, for example. The world of ATFA is extremely violent: several people are knifed or beated unconscious just on the trip to meet Penny and both Penny and Lady Day have had their parents murdered. The form of the book is a comedy but many of the events are not funny at all if you think about them.

Not surprisingly, large sections are very dated. I don't think I have seen the word 'faggot' used this often recently outside of a firewood discussion. Also, there's a mapping between transvestism, gays and 'anti-feminism' which does not exist in the real world. Ditto for lesbianism and manhating. I'd say the black characters were dated except that that appears to be a deliberate act on the part of the Black Sausalito folks, just as the anachronisms of the Old Towners and Natty Bump Brigade are.

The world of ATFA is a war of all against all, complicated by the fact that many of the people in ATFA are eccentric at best and outright demented in many cases. Machines are not immune: the various androids and intelligent computers are highly unreliable. Simple competency is a rare virtue. It's not clear why the US fell apart, although the extreme factionalism might have been the culprit (It's not clear which preceeded which).

Ron Goulart seems to be not publishing much under his own name these days. Pity. I liked his farces in the '70s, although they got repetative and if ATFA is any guide, they didn't age very well.

Science fiction Index
Previous: Omnilingual -H. Beam Piper
Next: City -Clifford Simak
All Millennial reviews are copyright by James Nicoll and are put on this website with his permission. Nothing here may be copied without the consent of the original author.

HTML 4.0 Checked!

Webpage created 31-03-2001, last updated 31-03-2001.
Comments? Mail them to