Fall of the Cities-Planting the Orchard
by Vance Huxley
Published: November 27th, 2015 by Entrada Publishing Genre: fiction, military, suspense Source/Format: kindle ebook; 411 pages; curtesy of Entrada Publishing Avg. Goodreads Rating: 5.00
The world is falling apart.
Terrorists spark a worldwide oil and gas crisis while imports grind to a halt. Europe and Britain are erupting into chaos as food runs out and desperate people take matters into their own hands.
As the government begins to seal off rioting parts of the city, Corporal Harry Miller takes an offered discharge to get his sister and her kids to safety. But he’s not fast enough. Trapped in the city with a rag-tag collection of ordinary citizen, Harry struggles to create a small pocket of stability – a place to ride out the coming confrontation between rioters and the Army, and save themselves from complete annihilation. —Entrada Publishing
The meal was bangers and mash with gravy and bloody wonderful. Hot cooked food, real English food and exactly what the men wanted. The meal was served by half a dozen women who Harry had assumed were kitchen staff. Two were definitely waitresses, their expertise in handling the dishes and plates were clear. The others had smocks but theirs were pale blue unlike the kitchen staff.
After finishing his meal Harry went to find out who they were, because he knew some bloody officer would give him grief sooner or later if they weren’t cooks. The four in question were missing. “Who’s in charge and where are the rest of the kitchen staff?”
The portly man with the hat spoke up. “I’m the assistant cook, Cullen. This is all the kitchen staff.”
“Plus those two waitresses and then there were at least four others. Don’t piss me about, Cullen, because I’m the reasonable sort. Some officer or sergeant will be a lot more bloody annoyed and then give me crap as well. So who are they?” Cullen’s eyes went round the kitchen while he worked on an answer.
“Cleaning staff sir. They daren’t go home.”
Harry turned to the the young woman, one of the waitresses. “Why not? The riot is over. Is that why you and her have stayed? The rioting?” Harry realized that he was tired and probably sounded angry when the woman flinched back. He gentled his tone a bit. “Who are you?”
“Janina, sir. We’re all frightened to go home. Some of us have been here three days now, expecting the place to be wrecked. Then you all turned up. Is the army here to rescue us all?” Harry stared. Rescue them? “We’ve just landed at Heathrow and there was a riot, so we were told to stop it. Nobody said anything about rescues. Why can’t you go home?”
The young woman looked embarrassed. “It’s the rioters sir. They go back to the estates at first light, but, well, they’re still there. Some of them look out for women. They caught Lucja on her way in on Wednesday, sir. The manager took her to the hospital but we haven’t been home since.”
“What about the others? The ones who left?”
Cullen spoke up at last. “They are the ones with houses of flats in the better areas, the ones that only get rioters at night. Most of them have got families. We’re the ones who live in digs or on the estates.” He sighed. “The manager didn’t come back after taking Lucja.”
Harry sighed as well. He’d been totally stuffed. “How many are actually kitchen staff?” There was a lot of hesitation and then people started shuffling about. Six kitchens staff and four not, plus the missing four. The orders were to send them home, but Harry just couldn’t do it. Not after what the lass, Janina, had said. “Can you manage to feed us with six if the place fills up?”
“Not really. I’m a trainee cook, though we’re called assistants. None the real experts are left. We can cook basic food but with six?” Cullen shrugged.
Harry looked at the worried faces and sighed again. He would get so much crap if anyone found out. “Can you manage with fourteen, if they peel spuds or whatever?” Tentative smiles appeared on four faces, two of each sex. “Go and bring the other four in for God’s sake. They’ll be worrying.”
“They can hear, sir.”
“Stop the sir. Anyone with stripes is in charge of those with nothing, but isn’t a sir. The ones with fancy badges are in charge of us are all sirs.” There was a scuffling and a big cupboard opened to show four apprehensive faces. “Come out here. Can you help this lot to cook?”
“Yes sir.” That smile was three parts relief and two parts cheeky, and all five parts were very pretty. “I’m Cynthia, sometimes known as Cyn, and I can make cheese on toast.”
Harry laughed, he had to. “Good. If you can cook porridge as well it sounds as if you’re on breakfast duty.” Harry looked round them. “They army will want three meals a day, and possibly something for those on duty at night, so organize yourself. If you are all sorted by the time anyone else asks, they won’t bother to mess you about. You’d better show me which are the staff rooms so I can make them off limits.” Harry looked round. “Do you all live in?”
There was a lot of feet shuffling and glances one to another. “There aren’t any staff quarters. Some of us have been staying but we’re supposed to go home after shifts.” Cullen looked defensive. “If we go home we might not get back.”
“Only the manager lives in. Lived in because he left. He’s got a flat and there’s two bedrooms in there.” Cynthia smiled. “We know because we have to clean them as well.”
Harry made a quick decision. The officers wanted staff, and this way there would be cooks here twenty-four seven. “Are there settees in there, or maybe room for a mattress of the floor? If not you need to take over the nearest room and make it look like a staff bedroom.” Harry smiled. “Throw out the flower vases and posh soap and hang up some undies in the bathroom.” There was mixed response to that. “What’s wrong?”
“Most of us haven’t got any more clothes so we sleep in separate rooms. We’ve been washing clothes out at night, but if we’re all living together?” Cullen looked around. “Your soldiers might like the idea of seeing them running around while their undies are hung up to dry, but I doubt they’ll return the interest.” He patted his large, round stomach. “I doubt they’ll appreciate this either. Not exactly the body beautiful.” Cullen was trying to make light of it and some were smiling but some were still very worried.
“The manager’s family must have left clothes, and what about the last guests? Those we told to leave didn’t all take suitcases.” Most of the faces looked happier but one went scarlet. Cullen glanced at her but spoke to Harry. “Some of our customers don’t have suitcases. They only rent for a few hours and don’t leave together.”
Harry looked at the red-faced one. “On the game?”
“Yes.” It was a whisper. “Do I have to leave? I’m in here because none of us are walking the streets now. Those bastards don’t care why you’re out there, and they don’t pay either.”
“Don’t look for business in here. This lot are fresh back from Kuwait and you’ll start a bloody riot. Then some officer will throw you out. Now all get into the proper uniforms and raid the rooms for whatever you need.” There was still some hesitation. “What now?”
“Martial Law. We can be shot for looting.”
“Requisitioned for army use, just don’t list exactly what clothing you take.” Harry caught the sparkle in Cynthia’s eyes. “Especially you, I reckon.” He hesitated. “Sort out the uniforms, tunics, whatever, and I’ll get a couple of sensible blokes to stop anyone else asking difficult questions.”
Fall of the Cities-Planting the Orchard made me both nervous and optimistic for the possibility of survival if/when the world falls into crisis mode over oil. While the goings on of this book have always felt a bit eventual, a bone was really struck with me as I followed these characters in their attempt to stay civilized despite the horrors going on outside their bedroom windows.
The book follows Corporal Harry Miller, a pay clerk in the British army, as he returns to England after, for lack of a better word, fleeing Kuwait. He returns to his home country to find it falling into disarray. Riots break out in London and the rest of the country as petrol and other imported goods deplete almost completely. The army, though seemingly poorly informed, begins to seal of cities due to these riots which eventually leads to Harry retiring from the army (thankfully this was easy due to the influx of soldiers coming in from overseas) to rescue his recently widowed sister and her two young children. Unfortunately, he doesn’t arrive in time.
Over a brief course of time, Harry becomes the “solider boy” leader of the group of people who live in his sister’s apartment building. He both inspires and teaches them to survive despite the growing fear of what is going on in the streets as more and more armed gangs threaten their lives.
Harry is such a lovable, “macho bastard” of a character. From the very beginning of the book, I knew I was going to enjoy his presence. I found him morally strong and reasonable, even despite his apparent Hulk-like flaws. He was exactly the type of person this group of people needed in this type of situation as even despite him wanting the responsibility, the group wholly elects him as their leader and the voice for their group. He’s such an easy person to trust. I found myself agreeing with him throughout the book even when it was about a topic that I literally knew nothing about.
In addition to Harry, there were so many great characters. From Casper, a force of strength and comedic relief due to the fact that he’s gay, Emmy, the tall Jamaican woman who after being attack with a shotgun begins to sport a hairstyle I can only describe as Skrillex-esque, Toby, the fifteen year old computer whiz, and Liz, the metal artist with attitude.
My only gripe with this book is that I think it should have been split in to two books. When Harry returns back to England he spends a good amount of time in a hotel while his rag-tag squaddies help deal with rioters in London. During this time he has a brief affair with a civilian woman appropriately named Cyn. After Harry leaves London, this part of the book just seems to disjointed from the second half. I would have loved to spend a little bit more time in London or would have loved to see it as an extra ebook in supplement main story.
All in all, this wasn’t typically a book I would pick up on my own, but I actually quite enjoyed it.
About the author.
Vance Huxley lives out in the countryside in Lincolnshire, England. He has spent a busy life working in many different fields – including the building and rail industries, as a workshop manager, trouble-shooter for an engineering firm, accountancy, cafe proprietor, and graphic artist. He also spent time in other jobs, and is proud of never being dismissed, and only once made redundant.
Eventually he found his Noeline, but unfortunately she died much too young. To help with the aftermath, Vance tried writing though without any real structure. As an editor and beta readers explained the difference between words and books, he tried again.
Now he tries to type as often as possible in spite of the assistance of his cats, since his legs no longer work well enough to allow anything more strenuous. An avid reader of sci-fi, fantasy and adventure novels, his writing tends towards those genres.