The Big Idea: Zac Topping
“Better to bring a casserole to your neighbor’s house than a shotgun” is a Midwest saying that rings extra true in author Zac Topping’s new novel, Wake of War. Follow along in his Big Idea as he takes you through war-torn streets of the near-future — streets that are all too familiar.
Crumbling, bullet-pocked buildings. Bombed out streets. Dust and rubble and the sound of snapping gunfire. A place that people had once called home, now called a combat zone. Devastation, despair. The epicenter of societal collapse. A scene that could be from any number of war-torn cities in far-off countries we see cycling through the news every day. But what if it wasn’t in some distant place? What if it was right here at home where you couldn’t just change the channel and put it out of your mind?
That was the question I sought to explore in the pages of Wake of War, a near-future military thriller in which the United States finds itself embroiled in a second civil war. What would a conflict like this look like here on American soil? What would it mean for the future of the nation? How would it change our way of life? And if we could just imagine what it would be like for those of us here in the States, could we maybe better understand what it is others are going through elsewhere around the world? Would we be so quick to call for violence if we truly understood what that meant?
A lot of questions, I know, but it’s safe to say that it’s a good time to be asking them. Over the last several years we’ve come closer to the brink than ever before. We’ve seen cities burn. Protests turn to riots. Armor-clad enforcers snatching people off the streets. Tempers are high, opinions are set, and the political landscape has become dangerously volatile. Tensions are high for a reason, though. There’s a lot that needs to be set straight here in the US. An abundance of archaic mindsets preventing forward progress. Some radical ideas that might possibly be overcorrection. All the necessary ingredients for conflict laid out before us.
Now I don’t pretend to have the answers, not even close. I consider myself an average person of average intellect with an average understanding of what’s going on. But what I do have is some perspective as to where we may be headed. You see, I’ve been to war. I’ve walked those rubble-strewn streets, I’ve seen the devastation violent conflict brings. I’ve been a part of that. But it was in a country on the other side of the world. It wasn’t my home. They weren’t my streets, and there’s a disconnect there that makes things…hazy. So to make things undeniably clear, I brought the story home.
Wake of War isn’t about the politics that led the nation to war. It isn’t about generals moving pieces around the board, or leaders plotting and scheming grand plans for domination. It isn’t a twisted fantasy of the apocalypse. It’s a story about the people who are caught up in the fighting, the people who are trapped by the violence, and rendered helpless by the inescapable situation. It’s a boots-on-the-ground look at where we may be headed if we don’t figure out how to live and thrive together. Wake of War is a cautionary tale. Brutal, raw, uncomfortable. But if we don’t look away, and if we truly consider the consequences of a complete societal failure, maybe we can realize that’s not the outcome we want. And instead of fighting, instead of burning the country to the ground, we can work together to create a better future, for all of us.