Two Books Set in Colorado: Action, Adventure, Suspense, and Cognitive Dissonance

Okay, here I am, still pretty much in lockdown because of Covid, reading an action/adventure/post-apocalypse book with serious science connections set in a small mountain town of Colorado. The town in question, Ouray, is not one that I have been to (it’s on the other side of the state… you have to travel on a seriously challenging mountain road to get there… it is famously beautiful, however), but I have bought online yarn from an indie dyer in Ouray. Beautiful, set deep in a canyon surrounded by steep mountains, this is the setting for the book Wayward.

Do I want to tell you the whole plot of this book? No, I do not! Here it is in a nutshell: there is an outbreak of a fungal disease that kills almost everyone. It came from bats. An AI interferes in the course of events by targeting a select number of brilliant individuals who are brought to Ouray to become the seed of humanity’s recovery. There are crazy right-wing militias, evangelical leaders hunting for a flock, a self-proclaimed president, tiny nanomachines that live inside of humans, A Good Boy dog named Gumball, a rock and roll legend who provides lyrics on demand when needed, and tons of suspense/action/adventure. There are also a few moments of outrageousness that are beyond the bounds of credibility, but it is a book, right?

Still, there was that scene where two central characters are camping inside a ring of birch trees, their bark glowing in the moonlight. Right. We don’t have birch trees here in Colorado. We have aspen trees, people, not birch. I also choked on my morning latte when one of the characters described his caribou hunt in Colorado… we do have Caribou coffee here, and caribou (well, reindeer) at the Denver Zoo, but no one comes here to hunt caribou in the wild because this isn’t freaking Alaska, people. I just hate when books/authors mess stuff up, which I know is ridiculous when reading a book about a fungal pandemic, a crazy nanomachine-based AI, and other fictional craziness. It still was a pretty good book in a Stephen King, The Last of Us kind of way.

So, I was really hopeful when I started another book set in Colorado. A murder mystery thriller with lots of social and political overtones. Perfect! Here’s the cover:

See that cover art? We’re up in the mountains in kind of a small town. Maybe an old mining town, I tell myself. Clearly the mountains as I can see the ski runs on the mountain in the foreground, and the upper peaks are above treeline, so those peaks are above 12,000 feet in elevation. I settled in to read a great murder mystery set in a mountain town.

Okay, this is a good story, but for me the whole thing was a hot mess. The story is not set in the mountains, but in the foothills south of Denver. Like, exactly where I used to live, drive around and hike. The immediate cognitive dissonance was just jarring as the community of Blackwater Fall was well described in the book as about 20 miles south of Denver with a view of the Lockheed Martin complex to the north and Chatfield Reservoir down below.

I used to go hike the Carpenter Peak trail each summer in Roxborough State Park. It’s a longish day hike, and I would set out mid-morning with my backpack and a hiking pole up the trail, mentally preparing myself to face down mountain lions as I started up the trail. Yep, this is mountain lion country and there is a warning sign as you cross the creek and step foot on the trail. Make noise, try to look big, don’t run, and if attacked, fight back, says the sign. Yep. That’s why I take the hiking pole. I would finally arrive at Carpenter Peak in the early afternoon to eat my lunch among the red rocks at the summit. Golden eagles soared in the wind below me, Chatfield reservoir gleamed to the northeast below me on the plains, and to the north was the Martin Lockheed complex exactly as described in the book. To the west of the peak is a view of endless rolling hills covered with conifers that merge with the true mountains of the continental divide in the distance. The trail to the peak forks right at the end where you can decide to hike the Colorado Trail or turn right for the summit; I always wistfully thought that I would someday to the Colorado Trail, but the view from the peak was what I always settled for in these hikes.

Yeah. There was no town in sight, no falls, no church, no school for the rich and privileged kids of the community, and the rich details of the book kept crashing into reality for me.

Our main character is Anaya Rahman, a Denver police detective who works in a unit that works to ensure justice in marginalized communities. Anaya is of Syrian descent and Muslin, and she struggles with no longer wearing her hijab. She is smart, compassionate, and dedicated to her work. She is sent to Blackwater Falls to solve the horrific murder of a teenager; killed and hung onto the door of a church in an artistic display. Oh, boy. The victim is a Syrian refugee and there is lots going on in this community. Hate and bigotry is everywhere. There is a meat packing plant with Somali workers who want to unionize. There is a high-tech aerospace company creating defensive infrastructure for the southern border. There is an exclusive school filled with entitled rich (white) kids. The FBI is running some type of operation that Anaya’s boss is involved in, and did I mention the motorcycle gang of thugs connected to the far-right church? Violence, bigoty, worker’s rights, the stresses of assimilating new cultures into an existing community, corruption, and you name it, it is here.

For me this book was a hot mess. First off, why is a Denver police detective working a crime scene in Douglas County? Shouldn’t the state be involved if the local sheriff and that force can’t handle the job? Then there was the scene of the crime: everything that can be found wrong in America was crammed into this community put down in a location where I know it can’t exist. My mind keeps careening off into speculation as she describes events in the book. Anaya and her boss drive along Titan Road on their way to interview someone… I’m thinking to myself… wow, that’s the road that was built to haul out the Titan missiles built at that Lockheed Martin plant in the foothills south of Denver when it was Martin Marietta. The victim camps at Marina Point in the Chatfield State Park, and I think… no way could a teenager without a car get there, and it is a crappy campground for tent campers… The meat packing plant full of Somali workers should be located in a town up north of Denver. You know, where the actual meat packing plants are located. The town of Blackwater Falls with its history, waterway, church, and economically divided communities could be something like Louviers, Colorado if you lumped in communities in the area to the east. (Louviers is really cool. It was a company town laid out by Du Pont when dynamite was produced there…) That exclusive school is actually north of there, but you get why I was constantly falling apart while reading the book. She actually called Denver a COW TOWN!!! (Okay, there was a cattle drive down some streets of Denver this month as part of the National Western Stock Show, and there was that steer that had high tea at the Brown Palace in Denver, but still… it like it’s okay for you to call your little brother names, but if someone else does… violence!!)

Cognitive dissonance overload. Maybe a little outrage, too.

Did I mention that I used to teach Somali and Syrian refugee students and I was pretty upset at moments for what those characters in the book were putting up with? I loved those students, and I hated the bigotry that was being portrayed in the book. It seemed so extreme and overblown.

The book really was okay, but the cognitive dissonance and distress about the extreme depictions of, well, corruption, violence, and bigoted views just did me in.

Inaya solves the crime and gets her man, but there are some loose strings hanging that I’m presuming will be picked up in later books in this series.

I’m just going to let them hang.

The Saturday Update: Week 21

Here it is Memorial Day weekend and it is cold and raining outside. Hannah and I have been hanging out indoors knitting, reading a book, and cleaning the stash. Oh, boy. There sure is a lot of yarn in the stash… let’s talk about that another day. Good thing it is raining, because I have a lot of knitting to do!

Hannah has been snoozing while I knit.

It is going to rain again tomorrow and when this is all over the outside gardens and lawn will be looking great. In the meantime, I have lots to keep me busy indoors.


I finished up the first of the assigned pooling socks that I’m working on.

I had a skein of yarn from Chasing Rabbits Fiber Co. in the Colorful Yarns colorway designed for my favorite LYS, Colorful Yarns. The skein is mostly grey with short rainbow strips that are about 1/6 of the length of the skein. I started knitting the yarn in my usual ribbed sock pattern and was not happy with the way the colors were just stacking on top of each other. I ripped the sock out and started again with a K2P2 ribbed section at the top of the sock with smooth stockinette after that. I purled the rainbow sections when I came to them and threw in random PSS stitches in the rainbow purl strips in an effort to create some randomness in the colored sections on the sock. You can see in my second picture that I put in 1-3 PSS bumps into the purled/color strips or sometimes didn’t add a PSS at all.

What is PSS? It’s a stitch that I learned while knitting The Sharon Show in section 21 (called Catnip Garden) that is simple, added a little bump to the knitting and was sure to alter the length of the rainbow strips. Basically you purl two stitches together but leave them on the left needle. You then knit the same two stitches together, and then purl them together again before you pull them to the right needle: three stitches are made from two. You then pass the middle of these three stitches over the stitch next to it (closest to the tip) and there is the bump! If that doesn’t make sense, here is a swell video to show the stitch. On the next round I slipped the two stitches from the PSS and then finally knitted them on the next round after that. You can see the little colored slipped stitches below the purled sections in my second picture. I knit the sock from the top down; if you knit one from the toe up the little colored stitches will be above the purled sections. (Hint: because of the slipped stitches put a purl or two between PSS stitches.)

Once I got through the heel section I stopped inserting the PSS stitches in the knitting on the foot of the sock: I purled on the top of the foot while sticking to smooth stockinette on the bottom of the sock (3rd picture). I lost some of the randomness in the line up of the colored strips but that part of the sock will be in my shoe so I’m good with it. The final picture shows the finished sock with its contrast heel and toe; kind of wish now that I had make the top ribbing that hot pink too. I’m now working on the second sock now and should eventually get the pair completed.

The other knitting that is still going on is the Noncho (Casapinka) that I kind of wish was already done because it is cool with all of the rain… Hannah has been a great help.


It is raining outside!! Here are the cool pictures from the week of my indoor plants.

I’ve taken to spraying my African violets every week and they seem to like it. The leaves have lifted up and the plants are blooming like crazy. Not what I expected to happen, but the plants are responding so well I spray them down weekly now.


I finished Wanderers today.

I was struggling with this book a little and wasn’t sure if I would complete it because… almost 700 pages! I don’t know how much I should say because of spoilers, but the plot involves sleepwalkers who are unresponsive to any efforts to wake them up. They never eat, never stop walking, and it is impossible to get a needle into them to draw blood. “Maybe they have scleroderma,” hypothesizes the CDC personnel attempting to understand what is happening with this flock of wanderers. Scleroderma! They had me at scleroderma. I kept reading.

Of course the wanderers don’t have scleroderma. This book is big, complicated, and pulls in lots of situational elements that are obviously based on actual people and events in the US. Amazingly, the book, which was published in mid-2019, also features a pandemic. I remember looking at the book when it was first published during those happy days when I could just head off to the book store to meet my friends; now things are changed and the impact of the book was that much more. I did like the book, but then I’m a biogeek who reads books about the CDC and outbreaks even before it became our lives.

Have a great week everyone!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.