-Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason
Stories about the breakdown of modern society seem to becoming popular, ranging from Dies the Fire, though Age of Misrule/The Dark Age, to the futuristic fantasy of the Council Wars. Ill Wind is one of the older books, but still remains a good read. There are a few plausibility problems, but it is saved by a good cast of characters and decent villains.
The basic plot is simple. Following a massive oil-spill in the San Francisco Bay, scientists, hoping to avert an ecological disaster, release an untested virus which feeds on oil and petroleum based molecules. Unfortunately for the world, the scientist who invented the virus switches the safe version to one that spreads out of control. The virus not only consumes the oil spill, but also manages to survive much longer than suspected and begins to attack all petroleum-based products along the west coast. Soon the virus spreads worldwide. With the US President out of the country, and the VP killed in a virus related plane crash, panic consumes the nation. The virus set the country and the world's technology back several hundred years.
Ill Wind offers a good look at how a government might slowly lose control of its country. It is more understated than the total disaster of Dies the Fire, but features a dictatorial general and…unstable President. That, sadly, is one of the main implausible parts – while the national government may be weakened, the state governments should be able to remain in control. American generals do not attempt to dictate to state governments.
The book’s only serious problem is that it has the virus spreading almost instantly over the world. Nonsense – it won’t spread that far so fast. Given its effects, there is a fair chance that it would be restricted to the Americas only. Creating a suddenly ultra-weak America would lead to a power vacuum and perhaps some parts of the world launching a nuclear strike on America. Other than that, it’s a pretty good read.