John Ringo, known for his military SF, fantasy and dark humor, tackles the Zombie Apocalypse in his new novel Under a Graveyard Sky.
Steven John "Professor" Smith isn't one to be caught with his pants down. His daughters know how to handle firearms, his wife encourages his having bug-out bags and burn phones, and he's got friends who would be some of the first to know when the shit hits the fan. So when his brother sends him a text that decodes to "Biological, viral, latent, wide-release, previously undetected, currently no vaccine, hostile activities parameter", it's time to go into bug-out mode.
Unlike many 'preppers,' Smith and his family actually know what they're doing. His two girls. Sophia (15) and Faith (13), while at the beginning skeptical about Uncle Tom's sources that the zombies are coming, nevertheless are mature enough to take direction from their father and help load the boat that was acquired under...questionable...means. Likewise, their mother Stacey jumps into her role as organizer, keeping stock of food supplies and making a rather suspicious run to Costco to buy them out of toilet paper and feminine hygiene projects.
For good reason: there's a virus out there that makes bath salts look tame. A strange, man-made combination of the flu and rabies, it's airborne in the respiratory phase and blood-borne as a neurological agent. Whoever created this, whether in a governmental lab somewhere or in a biohacker's basement, they've done their research. It's completely unaffected by any antivirals, and the neurological damage it does is almost certainly irreparable. The only hope would be a vaccine, but the world's resources are rather limited at the moment.
John Ringo is well known for his dark sense of humor, excellent characterization and attention to detail. Both girls react to and help with the crisis in their own way. The elder, with a calmer temperament and a mind for science, ends up initially helping her uncle work on the vaccine. The younger, a bit more reckless but good with a gun, stays behind with her parents to hold down the (floating) fort and search for survivors. Because in this situation, there's no hanging back and waiting for the government to save you. It's everyone for himself, and the more allies and shared resources you can discover, the better.
Under a Graveyard Sky is a Zombie Apocalypse story for the Libertarian at heart. The people who survive are the ones who take their own survival into their own hands. It's not pretty, and it's not always fair, but it's realistic, and a great read.
Highs: The way that Faith deals with the horrors of clearing boats in which the infected made it on board is heartbreaking.
Lows: The fact that we'll probably never find out how this all started is understandable, if frustrating.
Verdict: An addicting, quick read, and with the next book coming out in February, the reader won't have to wait long for his next hit.
Further Reading: To Sail a Darkling Sea, Princess of Wands, V-Wars
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