Michael Bunker’s The Last Pilgrims is a post-apocalyptic story set in Texas 20 years after a global economic collapse. The story centers around a large pacifist agrarian group called the Vallenses that are much like present day Amish, though they do have access to beer.
Beer is a good place to note that the book has many interesting bits of information on things I’d love to try or know how to do after a collapse. The beer is question isn’t what most of us would recognize as such, but made with a very old-world traditional method of brewing that actually produces antibiotics. This isn’t fiction, tetracycline has been found in he bones of Nubians who lived about 2,000 years ago. Another tip is that mesquite pods can be used to make coffee – highly caffeinated coffee. Aside from general ideas on preparing, these little or lesser known tips are why I read this sort of fiction.
The Vallenses were a group that practiced an agrarian and pacifist lifestyle before the collapse. Jonathan Wall is the pastor and leader of the group, while his former best friend Phillip commands a militia group that protects the Vallenses. Think Rangers protecting the Shire, or almost.
After the collapse countries dissolved into smaller kingdoms, one of which is Aztlan – taking the name used by some various Mexican nationalist movements that claim part of the U.S. southwest. The King of Aztlan has decided to wipe out the Vallenses, but the pacifist group refuses to fight, though the will flee.
Although the Vallenses won’t fight, or at least most of them, the Phillips militia does. There is a lot of back and forth, twists and turns, this book is part action-adventure. I recommend this book to anyone interested in this genre, but also just for the action.
The Last Pilgrims, as the title and nature of the main groups of actors suggests, also deals with religion, though not in a preachy or even very descriptive way. They pray, they have Christian values, but they don’t really get into it much. I’m Christian but I don’t think a non-Christian would feel put off by this book.
The author editorializes at times on the fundamental and systemic causes of the collapse, primarily the completely unsustainable lifestyle of most of the planet since the 20th century. I think most survivalists would agree with most of what he has to say about that. Personally, I wish our standard of living could stay nearly as good as it is now, but I just don’t think it’s possible.
There are a few negatives but I don’t think they detract too much. While the story, explanation of the cause of the collapse, and action was excellent, the dialogue was pretty wooden, with an exception or two it’s impossible to tell who’s talking. Also I thought the description of how prosperous the Vallenses community was and how well they lived probably painted a bit too rosy of a picture of post-collapse living, even 20 years later.
Normally I prefer books that get more into the mechanics of the collapse rather than years or decades down the road, but found that I’m sort of getting burned out on that and this book was a welcomed change of pace. Even so, there are several flashbacks that describe events of the collapse, so some of that itch is scratched. Also welcomed was the fact that it’s very well written and edited, not so common for self-published post-apocalypse books and a real pleasure.
Disclaimer: I was provided a free Kindle version of The Last Pilgrims to review.