Salvaging Hope: Jonesbridge: Echoes of Hinterland by M. E. Parker
As Myron's arms and legs adjusted to the pull, the clock struck again. Pain shot through his limbs when the gears, one at each corner of the table, advanced another notch, threatening to tear him apart.
An unseen projector parted the darkness with a beam of light. Flickering on a screen above him, a grainy film entitled A New Day for Jonesbridge began with a bugle corps sounding the anthem. "Welcome to the Jonesbridge Industrial Complex, the jewel of the Continental Alliance," a pleasant female narrator stated.
Hours on the rack with only propaganda films for relief is Myron Daw's introduction to being a slog. Jonesborough is the last redoubt of the Continental Alliance, a brutal government which evolved following a nuclear apocalyse in 2043, one which left only a remnant of humanity and "clean land" to raise food crops. The alliance is under siege by the E'sters, the Eastern Alliance, and protected only by the Great Gorge, too wide for the enemy to traverse. The Jonesbridge operation has only one major mission--salvage--recycling the detritus of a ruined civilization to sustain their defense--and Myron soon finds himself a slog,, one of the ill-fed laborers who get minimal rations and work twelve-hour shifts in a setting grimly reminiscent of Nazi slave labor camps.
When Myron's time on the "stretcher," aimed at breaking his will, is over, he becomes a cog in the salvage operation, almost without hope. But then he remembers the time his grandfather showed him how to build a coal-fired hot air balloon, and realizes that he could construct an aircraft capable to flying over the Great Gorge to some sort of freedom beyond. Myron smuggles bits of salvage and fuel out and begins to assemble it in easily concealed parts. Then, a girl named Sindra comes to work on his floor, and the two are drawn to each other's spirit of rebellion and hope.
Myron and Sindra find ways to communicate, fall in love, and he shares his plan with her just as the Alliance comes under artillery fire from the other side of the Gorge. In the confusion Myron and Sindra escape to the wild lands outside the Complex. But an explosion at the heart of the salvage operation sends the guards searching for infiltrators, and Myron is captured and brought back for possible execution, and Sindra, desperate to save the baby she is carrying, is left to make the voyage by Myron's aircraft alone, finally coming down to a seemingly benign enclave on the coast.
Sindra awoke to the sound of water lapping against the airship. She soaked in the sights of the ocean as she drifted toward a collection of debris. In the side of the largest of the landmasses, tall white letters formed a word,.
When the current brought her to the edge of the pier, Sindra climbed out of the basket. Her eyes connected with a woman carrying a basket. People dressed in patchwork clothes approached, not to harm but to welcome her.
If she had made it, then Myron could, too.
Despite the grim, gray portrait of existence in this sober post-apocalyptic novel, there is hope that life for humankind goes on, and it seems a sequel is built into the concluding chapters of M. E. Parker's Jonesbridge: Echoes of Hinterland (Diversion Books, 2015). Young adult readers seem to be more than ready to stomach the grim worlds portrayed by the many dystopian novels, beginning with Huxley's Brave New World, Lowry's Newbery-winning The Giver, and continuing to her well-known books-to-film Collins' The Hunger Games, series, and the popularity of such books suggests that young people still seek out those books that strip down civilization as we know it to reveal what is really important for human life. This book shows the worst and best of humankind in a riveting novel that ultimately makes the choices starkly clear.