Food. Food is essential. Every time and especially in times of war when you are a rebel force fighting against an oppressive regime, like TRACE does against Transport. When the urgently needed food is stolen on its way to the hidden camp from the Amish Zone, it complicates things obviously and soldiers are - at least for the time being - put on half rations. There are concerns that the Transport regime is behind it, so Mary Brenneman and her Bestimmung Company are assigned to find the missing supplies, and do so rather fast.
Which leads to an encounter with The Wild Ones, some sort of scavengers who live on the fringes of the society in New Pennslyvania. It´s a rather sophisticated plan they have hatched to use the Bestimmung Company to help them to steal weapons from Transport for their own survival. While Transport more or less ignored The Wild Ones so far, they are becoming more and more agressive in their approach to exterminate them. As outsiders they are a hindrance to the regime since they don´t follow the set rules of how the government here wants their populus to behave and live.
But as it is no battle plan survives a battle, hence the Bestimmung Company and the leader of The Wild Ones, Eeguls, who is quite the smooth talker, get into trouble into the city, Columbia, with the Transport soldiers. And this is to put it mildly. While they are a small and fast moving unit they are soon discovered and outnumbered. Transport doesnt take kindly to the TRACE rebels, and neither, as it has been established, to The Wild Ones.
As already in Gettysburg, Susquehanna, takes the action and pulls everything in fast forward motion. What I find extremely fascinating here, which is true for the whole trilogy, is that Pourteau uses a very minimalist approach in his writing. He doesn´t use or need more but a sentence or two to display a setting or set the mood and vibe. Hence paragraphs, if I dare to call them such, are extremely short, but that´s all he needs in the first place. Granted, it does take work, since wordy is most definitely not his middle name, but at the same time his writing is very clear, precise and extremely sharp. Very much needed for the novella length those stories are.
While I am still not much of a military/sci-fi action buff it´s the characters in the Bestimmung company that makes me reading those tales. Mary, Stugs and Hatch are quite the, well, characters. :-) Stugs and Hatch and their dark, inappropriate humor are hilarious, though. Those are like two big boys goofing off even when times don´t really call for fun. It´s a way of coping with extremes, like death and dying, and what I like about them. Those oddballs are my faves. I don´t know, it´s not that I can really relate to them, still there is so much to like about them. Their friendship in rough times for one, their loyality to eachother, or the QB (Queen Bitch) as Mary is lovingly nicknamed, being the leader and all. It´s not really a fun ride since the tale itself due its story arc is rather dark, but the oftentimes light bantering between the men makes the more cruel scenes more easily digestable. Which I appreciate, otherwise I am not sure I would like the stories very much.
As always, Chris Pourteau´s author´s notes were necessary for me for a clearer understanding from where the ideas in Susquehanna were coming from. Being an European and all, I have for example never heard of the real river Susquehanna and its importance in historical terms. It´s less that Pourteau explains the story in his afterword but the ideas that led to the story, and hints at what parts, historical and otherwise, he waved into his tale.
Also how he compares the river with information is fascinating. Those who control the movement... control the information, which is both here in Susquehanna important for TRACE and Transport. It might be a bit of a far stretch, or my interpretation only, but I see it also how we in this internet age regain any kind of information. Who displays it, and what´s the source? I´m sure that was always a dilemma in the world. However, an information overload is our lot, and we have to choose what we believe in, even those decisions might not always be rationale. In the best of worlds those are based on knowledge and experience, or in the worst case scenario, ignorance. TRACE faces the same dilemma, whom and what to believe and trust in when the hated enemy is the one who controls the information.