Roland Hughes’ fiction ‘Last Known Survivor of The Microsoft Wars’ is a post apocalyptic scenario containing many truths from the trivial to the terrifying.
Set in 2081 the novel takes the format of an interview over one week with one of only a few survivors (John Smith) of a destructive event and a journalist (Susan Krowley) reporting for The Times newspaper. The Times has a readership of 5,500, which is good in her world.
After a long search Susan found John in a secure, isolated and secret place in America , part of which is now under water. Now aged 79 John tries to explain the world of 2013 – ‘THE EARTH THAT WAS’, when the event happened.
In the world of 2081 people have gone forward in time but back in knowledge reverting to traveling by horse and they know nothing about computers, nuclear power, weapons of mass destruction, NASA, transistor radios, microwave ovens, ballpoint pens that write upside down, inkjet cartridges, gravity, Genome Project, and many more inventions that we take for granted today. John talks about God and religion which Susan knows nothing about.
John tells Susan that weapons of mass destruction ‘could allow 15 people to take over the world’. What a terrifying thought!
There is a wonderful description of our life today in relation to the cellphone.
We get an overview of History both of people and the natural world which is fascinating. John tells Susan that the Pyramids are tombs for dead Egyptian Kings where they were placed after death. This was great for the King but not so good for the slaves who had to join their Master alive!
The style is erudite, informative and fascinating and it illustrates the progress of the human race’s industrial and electronic development but what we need to remember today is that we are interdependent on each other for our survival. We need all types of people with varied skills. This is illustrated well in this novel.
The book is not just for readers interested in futuristic writing but also for the general reader as it explains the incredible inventions and progress achieved over the centuries. It certainly inspired me to research various topics including The Lost City of Atlantis and Nuclear Power.
Roland Hughes is an IT expert, which lends this fiction credibility.
George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ is referenced. I believe that Roland Hughes’ novel should be considered as important as ‘1984’ and Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’. Highly recommended as a thought provoking and fascinating read.
John Smith: The last known survivor of the Microsoft Wars by Roland Hughes is not your typical post-apocalyptic piece of fiction but also a well written piece of philosophy. There are no AI programs, killer robots, zombies, mutants, alien invasions or even nuclear war. It is a quick reading book that teaches use lessons of how that current events, human greed and not paying attention to our past can be the downfall of civilization. The story follows John Smith as Susan Krowley interviews him, about the Mixcrosoft Wars, after his bunker is discovered. At times you might not fully grasp what is being conveyed in the answers that Mr. Smith gives but as you read it will become more clear urging you to read on to discover what other lesson are to be learned in the pages of this book. As you read on you will also find yourself questioning some of the things you have always taken at face value in today’s society.
Mr. Hughes' book reminds me of reading Plato's books Phaedo and Meno. When you first start it is not what you are expecting and you kind of question why you are reading it. Just like those books once you do read a few pages you realize that you are getting much more out of the page than you though possible. Just as Plato sometimes confused his students before they would gleam the lessons he was teaching them, John Smith would some times confuse Susan Krowley with the answers to her questions.
One of my favorite aspects of the book how it ties in what many of us just consider totally made up fiction and points out how that many of them were based on some kernel of truth. One example of this is when John Smith mentions how that the submarine in the book 20,000 leagues under the Sea is based on stories of submarines that the people of Atlantis built thousand of years earlier.
I would recommend to anyone to enjoys philosophy, history, fiction or just studying human nature. No matter which one of these genres you prefer there are valuable nuggets that you will be able to gleam from this book.
Dystopian Fans Will Love It
When author Roland Hughes asked if I'd be interested in reviewing "John Smith" I had no idea what I was in for. The title was intriguing and the blurb hooked me even more, so I started reading. I only put it down once to scan through the pages to look at the story format and structure.
When reporter Susan Krowley is assigned to interview John Smith, one of the last known survivors of the Microsoft Wars, she discovered a history that could only have been told in the format Hughes selected to present in this imaginative and intriguing dystopian story. The entire novel is an interview between Krowley and Smith.
While Krowley wants to document a history of what happened during the rumored Microsoft Wars, Smith wants to impart an important idea and drives the point home with pages of historical back story that span centuries. His point is that if not known or understood, history will repeat itself, over and over. This novel is not for everyone. Readers who absolutely cannot stand the "All Tell but No Show" style of prose, might want to steer clear. However, for those who can look beyond and into an alternate future based on some history and today's reality, this story is guaranteed to grab you. You'll want to hold on for the entire ride.
First, let me inform you that the title of this book is misleading! You are probably thinking it has something to do with Microsoft vs. Apple, or Bill vs. Steve. It’s not. It’s much, much more than that.
Something John Smith, the main character of the book says during the interview really sums up this story: “All great works of science fiction are based on reality.”
While this story is fiction, you’ll be surprised at how much reality plays into it – how the things we know, from history or education, really have an underlying reality – that we’ve just forgotten the truth due to time and ability to record it accurately.
This story also gives us things to think about – like recording and preserving our own history. Yes, we can download a billion bits of data onto a flash card or USB drive, but how will that information be read, if the device that does the reading doesn’t survive the end of this “cycle”?
So much of earths history is used in this story, to tell us how past cycles ended (like Atlantis) and about Alien visits (you’ll be surprised!) and even give us a glimpse of a possible future – as the next cycle begins.
Another thing I found fascinating about this story is the format: This is an interview and laid out like one. At first, the reader may think that in this dialogue only format there will be no action, no scene in which to visualize the characters (of which there are only two!) but in reality the author has done a tremendous job with the dialogue and provided the reader more than just a scene.
From the dinosaurs to King Aurthor, Roman times and microwaves, Roland Hughes has written a story that will entertain and education. You’ll find it interesting and thought provoking. It will also leave you wondering if maybe, just maybe, this book is NOT fiction at all.
“Beginnings, no matter how important they are, get forgotten,” writes Roland Hughes in this far-reaching inquiry into mankind’s history, and perhaps, its future. With John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars, Hughes pushes the restart button on humanity, setting us down nearly seventy years in the future on a planet with very few people and very little memory of everything that has come before.
Trying to sort it all out is young reporter, Susan Krowley, who has grown up in a post-apocalyptic world that retains only stray remnants of modern technology, and a vague story about the near-annihilation of humanity on November 13, 2013. She’s hoping for answers from the oldest person she’s ever met; at 79, John Smith carries knowledge from the old world that has nearly been lost. Krowley’s interview with Smith provides the structure of the book, and allows Smith to hold forth on topics ranging from Druids and Mayans to terrorism and global warming.
The question-and-answer structure will be familiar to philosophy students, and Hughes’s use of the method aptly recalls Plato. Like the Classical Greek philosopher, Hughes tests theories about the nature of the world and the human beings who inhabit it, and both use Atlantis as a model through which to explore the possibilities. Hughes lightly develops the relationship between interviewer and subject as their conversation continues, and it becomes clear that Smith is really the one challenging Krowley with his insistence that she understand the context, or “frame of reference” for her questions about the so-called Microsoft Wars. Krowley does become more inquisitive and critical throughout the interview, although many of her queries continue to be simple prompts for Smith to continue his contemplation. Thus their dialogue seldom tells us a lot about their characters, which limits the impact of Hughes’s ideas.
Although Hughes creates a detailed modern science fiction setting—the Human Genome Project, weapons of mass destruction, and anti-gravity science all contribute to man’s fate—the book is less of a science fiction adventure than it is an opportunity for philosophical musings. Readers hoping for something earth-shattering to happen in the pages of John Smith may be disappointed. The seminal event happened in the past, and Krowley and Smith are just here to help us pick up the pieces.
The pieces themselves are intriguing, and Hughes keeps the frequent monologues from dragging by imbuing Smith with a dark sense of humor—speaking of fossil fuels, for instance, he includes humans in the equation (“Humans are useful in a variety of forms. Have they invented a product called petroleum jelly yet?”)—much to Krowley’s dismay. And don’t get him started on economists and MBAs. Smith is an opinionated guy, which helps his forays into history read less like encyclopedia entries and more like impassioned speeches. Some speeches are lengthy, but Smith’s urgency carries the reader along.
The Microsoft Wars, as it turns out, are only a small part of the tale here. Instead of focusing on the final battle, Smith expands his thoughts on the political, economic, psychological, and even mythological forces that may have led to humanity’s demise. What the few people left on earth will make of this history, and how it will affect their future, remains an open question that Hughes, a prolific author, will likely take up in future volumes.
Reviewed by Sheila M. Trask, MS/LIS, September 2013
From the beginning of time, people have passed stories down through the generations. These stories are often transformed with each retelling, especially where there’s no recording of history. However, even history that is recorded or written down can be lost because technology becomes quickly outdated and even the pages of a book fade over time.
In Roland Hughes’ latest book is based more than 60 years in the future. It’s set in a time that many might imagine will be far more advanced than their wildest dreams, but it’s not. The power and greed of a few destroyed the world as we know it today. It has reverted to a preindustrial revolution era without cars, computers or microwaves. The population is all but diminished. Susan Krowley, a young newspaper reporter, has heard rumors and stories of long ago societies in which people used high-powered tools to build tall buildings, where people went to school for many years to learn their jobs, times when food was abundant, but that was before the Microsoft Wars. It all seemed utterly ridiculous to Krowley. That is, until she met 79-year-old John Smith, whose cyclic tales of the Earth That Was not only surprised her, but also unraveled mysterious worlds that she believed were nothing more than myths.
Hughes tells his fictional story through a dialogue between Krowley and Smith. He cleverly intertwines reality and his imagination, which creates a story that often caused me to question whether or not I’m reading a book of fiction. I found myself wanting to go back and revisit the history books to evaluate them on a new level. Hughes reminds us that life today, tomorrow and 1,000 years from now can heavily impacted by the past as we understand it. His quick, smart style kept me interested all the way through to the end.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about history, the future or the rebooting of society without modern day technology. While there have been many books and movies written about greed, power and the end of the world, Hughes found a way to keep his story fresh and unceasingly timely.
Jana J. Pruet, September 2013
John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars is an imaginative history lesson from the creative mind of Roland Hughes. What if human civilization is much older than we have ever realized? What if Adam and Eve were not the first humans, simply some of the first from this cycle of history? What if the Atlantians weren’t destroyed when their city was lost, but have actually been living deep in the ocean in submarines waiting for the right time to reemerge? These questions and many more are what Roland Hughes asks readers to consider and explore.
The year is 2081 and civilization has moved on. John Smith was eleven years old on November 13, 2013, the day the world changed and a new cycle of humanity began. For years, people had been trying to warn of the impending doom, urging the population to stop looking inward and pay attention to the damaging effects they were wreaking on the world, but greed and power were the rulers of the day. Warring countries began to make threats of nuclear war, some even followed through. Finally, everything imploded on November 13th with an event that changed the very fabric of the world and almost wiped humanity from existence. There are now 12 continents in the world and much of the land that was once inhabited is now unlivable, either laying at the bottom of the ocean or destroyed by radiation. The population of the world is a fraction of what it once was—most of it killed by plague, war, and radiation. The once thriving communication and technological knowledge of the world has been lost as well, so that those who have survived must survive by primitive means. Decades later, the people that are left are too young to know or understand what happened, so they search for survivors old enough to remember. The man they found was John Smith, but will they are willing to heed his warnings and believe his incredible tale?
Roland Hughes’s novel is intriguing and excites the imagination. However, the format Hughes has chosen to tell his tale, though it is unique, is a bit of a concern. John Smith is written in the form of a transcribed interview, a form that has been done with success in short forms, but is rarely used for novel-length works. The choice of form creates a static quality about the book, because everything has already happened and the characters don’t do anything but talk the entire time. This makes it easy to lose attention and hard to read for long lengths of time.
While I do have concerns about the format of the book, these concerns are alleviated by the author’s ability to weave a grand tale. It was the sense of discovery and the need to know what happened that kept me reading. It is obvious that Hughes has done an amazing amount of research on the history and myth of the world, religion, and ancient civilizations. This research has paid off, because he has woven the juiciest bits of information throughout his book. I recommend this book for any science fiction fans, scholars of ancient history and civilizations, and anyone interested in conspiracy theories. They are sure to enjoy this book, because it is unlike any that they will have read before. John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars is a unique and interesting tale from an intelligent and creative mind. I hope to read more from Roland Hughes.
Tania Staley, Hollywood Book Reviews