I am a bit tired and kind of out of it so if this post is a bit more disorganized and erratic than usual that is why. This book follows a middle aged man, his friends, family and neighbors through a grid down (EMP) event. The setting is Texas and while they don’t get into exact dates it occurs in contemporary times. Now we will go on to the usual format for these things.
The Good: This book was quite entertaining. I read it over the course of a couple days and was quite drawn into it. The story line was interesting, the characters believable and the plot (except parts we will discuss later) was generally realistic. The characters in the book were not some super hero’s (at least for the most part) who had seemingly been training their whole lives for the Zombie Apocalypse but average folks with an average range of skills.
I also appreciate that a lot of the “action” was in and around vehicles. This is quite realistic as well, that is how Americans get around (and will unless there is no fuel) so it is worth thinking how you would fight out of a civilian vehicle (vs a HMMWV or MRAP or Bradley with a crew served weapon and armored frame). Food for thought.
I really liked that the author did not get sucked into it being a walking product advertisement for his favorite kit, firearms, etc. Especially in the area of firearms this was noticeable. Different characters had different preferences and aside from generic observations such as semi automatic rifles are better for defense than bolt and lever guns, .308’s are good at punching holes in stuff, etc there were no caliber/ weapons platform soap box moments. Also there was never a moment where only a whiz banger 72 with a XXXX optic, YYY bullets and numerous other specific accessories (all of which the main character happened to have, how lucky) fit the bill and perfectly carried the situation. That was a breath of fresh air from other survivalist fiction.
The book also had some good ideas about getting organization going among a group of people in a disaster situation. Nothing revolutionary or new parse but some of the incidents that happen would make for interesting “what would you do” vignettes or discussion questions. The old leadership trick of convincing people that what you want them to do is their own idea came up more than a couple times.
The Bad: Early on and even throughout the book it was awful hard to keep track of the characters. I think that they were a little too shallow in developing them or maybe they exposed too many too fast, I am not sure. At one point just into the book I thought there was some swinging action going on between the two sets of main characters then I realized I couldn’t keep track of them. Maybe the fact that I haven’t slept much lately made that worse. In any case I decided to stop trying as it wasn’t really significant any way and just went with it.
The Ugly: 3 things stuck out as downright ugly and I will go through them in the order they appeared in the book.
First the way things go down the main characters do the vast majority of their preparing after an EMP goes off and kills the grid. They were able to keep going to the grocery store, which was being restocked, for a prolonged period of time which allowed them to stock up on staple foods. Also they were able to acquire a wide variety of different things during this timeframe. How exactly that situation would develop could be debated but this seems idealistic. I suspect it is a way to show how they became prepared and it allowed the main characters to not be hard core survivalists (though they were tactically trained and hunters, with solid gun collections which is not totally unusual but still a bit convenient) but also not starve to death.
Furthermore going along with this they were able to pay cash for items which I suspect would become very valuable very quickly like seeds, ammo, fencing supplies, etc. Again it was necessary for the book to work but still awful convenient and potentially misleading. I don’t know that things would go all Mad Max overnight (at least outside of massive urban centers) but I lean towards a more restricted supply situation a la Jericho or maybe One Second After. To his credit the author did work in how it would have been a lot more convenient for them to get this stuff earlier a few times but this whole part was just unbelievable to me. I had to ignore it to continue reading and enjoying the book.
Second I think this book might have been edited by the ACLU and some sort of womens rights group prior to publication. The main characters paused regularly to discuss feminist views and worry about women’s rights. When they were making committees for different areas one woman demanded that a woman be put onto a committee based solely on gender. We will call this gal Quota Girl. Quota girl somehow ended up in charge of all kinds of stuff for her “organizational abilities” and to be honest it just made me sick. They were more concerned with her feelings than having things work well. Also Quota Girl did no actual work and was a huge pain in the butt to the men she supervised who actually did work.
Furthermore I the author clearly made an intentional effort to have a nice, positive character portrayed in a great light of every reasonable ethnicity you could think of. It was ridiculous. Even more disturbingly all bad people were either race neutral or white guys of rural backgrounds. I’m not saying us honkey’s aren’t capable of some bad things but shoving every evil deed in a book off onto us is a bit much.
Lastly there was a classic hypocrisy when it comes to other peoples stuff. Call it theft, spoils of war, whatever but the main characters talk about how they respect everyones right to property and chastise minor characters for considering to acquire anything but then take all sorts of stuff they happen to find. There was some minimal justification but it was a load of BS, the least authors could do is have their characters own up to and be honest about their actions. Even more ridiculous the main characters go to great lengths to vilify bad guys for their treatment of people and then use them as slaves. This was just nuts.
These criticisms aside I did enjoy the book and get some things out of it. Made me think a lot about my current priorities and shift some things around a bit. I would recommend it but would suggest you scheme to avoid paying full price.