In his recently published novel, Paine: Time of Anarchy, J.B. Durbin takes us into his apocalyptic vision of the future and it is one this reviewer hopes never to experience personally. Durbin creates his dystopian world with an experiment gone horribly wrong. In the war on drugs, a team of scientists creates a virus that destroys drug producing crops but soon mutates into a form that attacks beneficial plants as well, depleting the world of both food and oxygen. As starvation and violence decimate the earth’s population, governments crumble. When the virus spreads to humans, anarchy reigns. In this “survival of the fittest” world, new breeds of leaders emerge, some skilled in killing, others steeped in cunning and corruption. This is the world Michael Paine is born into. Like the Hunger Games, throughout the book, it is difficult to categorize any of the characters, including Paine, as strictly good or bad, hero or villain. Everyone does what they need to do to survive and allegiances are always tenuous. This to me is one of the strongest aspects of the book and I found some of the character’s actions surprisingly callous even through the end. Durbin’s years of teaching serve his writing style well, which is more polished than many first time novelists. His extensive military experience is evident in his description of the weapons and tactics used by the warring factions of this tribal landscape. In the middle of the novel, non-military readers may get even more details than they want. As the book marches on toward its climax however, the pace picks up dramatically and I occasionally found myself wanting even more details on some of the political maneuvers. This is the first book of a series and in the final chapter Durbin puts the elements in place for his next book. Based on those elements and staying true to his genre, I would expect life in Durbin’s subsequent novels will get even harder before it gets better.