I’m neither a radio nerd, nor musically inclined, but Five Million Watts [Amazon link] by Fenton Wood makes me wish that I were. Follow me as we follow Philo Hergenschmidt on his magical journey to the city of Ibukaron, and on his quest to save 2XG, the greatest radio station in the Republic, and beyond!
Philo is no longer the carefree and innocent twelve-year-old he was in Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves. Now he is a carefree and innocent young man. Leaving home, going to college, ending up in the big city haven’t changed who he truly is. Part of what I love about the Yankee Republic series is the sense of joy it embodies. There is nothing else like it in fiction that I am aware of.
I also love that Wood is willing to work any myth that ever lived into his stories on top of interesting science and engineering, and somehow, it all hangs together like it was meant to be. We get the Green Man, Nikola Tesla’s more successful doppelganger, the origin of the HERC2 variant, and various urban legends that somehow turn out to be more true that truth.
As I said, I am not a radio nerd. But I do know enough to be impressed by Radio 2XG and its monstrous transmitter. I might have even learned something from Philo’s toil in the belly of the beast. As my late friend John J. Reilly said, good science fiction leaves the reader usefully instructed in some principle of physics or biology in a story that otherwise resembles as Western. In my own application of this principle, I have expanded a bit into adventure fiction in general in the latter, and engineering and social science in the former, but I think the spirit of John’s observation is more than satisfied here.
In the area I happen to have the most experience, the use of operational amplifiers as a kind of real-time differential equation solver, I thought Wood captured the feel of the thing nicely. Thus, in areas where my own ability is conspicuously lacking, such as music, I am willing to just go along for the ride. In fact, the way Wood describes music in words makes my heart ache. I wouldn’t have thought you could describe Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in a way that makes you hear it, but Wood does it.
Each and every entry in the Yankee Republic series is a treat, as the world Wood has imagined unfolds before you like a flower seeing the dawn. It is a million little things done just right. And at its heart, is Philo Hergenschmidt, innocence personified. Despite, or perhaps because of the strange things that seem to happen to him, Philo manages to get a job, find some friends, and help save the City from frozen doom. And the best thing about Philo’s adventures is that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
Other books by Fenton Wood