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Glad Kilroy was here and he's back with a book
February 21, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
Former Herald-Star/The Weirton Daily Times sports editor Mike Kilroy has penned his first novel.
At least I surely hope it’s the first of many.
Because I couldn’t put down “Nine Meals.” It occupied the last three evenings while I was “watching” the Olympics.
The sci-fi story’s characters are well drawn and contain enough moral conflict in a post-apocalyptic world to bring the reader right into their heads. And I didn’t want to leave until their plot lines were resolved and the world was adjusted to its new normal.
Without giving away any spoilers (you need to buy this book and read it for yourselves), Kilroy uses a bit of solar trouble to bring about the end of the world as we know it. It’s all bloodless until people start starving and there are no more iPads that work. Trust me, it all makes sense. It's a new take on that "man behind the veneer of civility" genre, in the best way that sci-fi stories can dig into the psyche and the state of mankind.
The book weaves the characters in the post-apocalypse time back to their pre-apocalypse time in flashback chapters, which add to the richness of the story. The book even undergoes a shift of protaganists without missing a beat.
There is violence and tenderness, internal and external conflict, love, hatred and life amidst the ruins. There is a quest to reach Valhalla, or in this case, “Halcyon,” a place in Cheyenne Mountain’s Air Force installation where things are really, really good, despite the apocalypse.
Among many potentially disturbing scenes, Kilroy haunts me with a vision of post-apocalyptic Pittsburgh viewed from Mount Washington that disturbs the heck out of me. I need to drive to the ’Burgh this weekend just to have a look at its current beauty.
The conflicts the characters sustain are the result of having to deal with a world where the new normal isn’t about the rule of law that we live with today but rather with the rule of survival, largely driven by how long it’s been since consuming one’s last real meal. Nine meals away from anarchy is a quote attributed to a British lord. Good people are driven to fight, kill and more, just to live to see another day. The stomach drives the mental acumen of the characters, with the title explained as this: Missing nine meals in a row is the point where the body begins to lose function and the mind fails and concentrates only on getting nutrients to function.
The solar problem that Kilroy uses to bring about the world of his making in “Nine Meals” is a coronal mass ejection, a really, really big solar flare. Kilroy said he’d been formulating the story and characters for years and saw a cable show about things that could cause the end of the world. One of the scenarios was a Coronal Mass Ejection. In the “Nine Meals” world, and in science, that brings about an instant and catastrophic end to the power grid from which the world as we know it cannot recover.
“That’s when the story clicked in my head,” Kilroy said in a recent interview. “The actual writing part took only a month because the story was so fleshed out in my head.”
He said the idea of a world without electrical power came to him several years ago when a windstorm knocked out power to his Western Pennsylvania home.
“It was amazing to me just how much we rely on electricity for even the most mundane things in our life,” he said. “Then, I imagined what would happen if the power never came back on and thought, ‘That would make for a pretty good novel.’”
And, though I’ve forgotten it despite many a Saturday night spent working with Kilroy, during which we had to have discussed the genre, he’s into science fiction.
Kilroy said he thought the novel best set in the sci-fi genre.
“It’s a sort of catch-all for post-apocalyptic works like this,” he said. “It’s also kind of visionary because it imagines a place where things are perfect in a land of so much pain.” Kilroy’s wife, Dahn, designed the cover of the book.
He is a sportswriter at the Butler Eagle, working for another Herald-Star alum, sports editor John Enrietto. He said Dahn served as his “beta tester,” telling him honestly what parts worked and what didn’t in the initial drafts. He said he had good editors in the form of former Eagle colleagues Sam Tallarico and Karen Schaffner, who went over the book with a fine-toothed comb.
All I can tell you is I loved this book, I want more of the characters and more from my friend Mike Kilroy.
“Nine Meals” is available as an e-book from Amazon. Go. Download it. You will have a great diversion with which to wrap up a couple days of winter. And you won’t be able to put it down.
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