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Customer Review

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars With better pacing and development this could be really good, February 19, 2012
This review is from: Half Past Midnight (Kindle Edition)
I generally hate reading novels that are written from a first-person perspective. This author, however, did a good enough job focusing on external events to keep the first person perspective from affecting the quality of the story -- it was very well done. But the result of the "diary" narrative seems to make things a little too shortsighted and hyper-focused. ****Spoiler-Alert.****

The problem with this book is that the protagonist, Lee, who we find out used to be an ardent survivalist and martial artist (who likely had a bunker prepared for the Y2K crisis), identifies a bright glow in the sky as the detonation of an airborne-deployed nuclear warhead over the city of Houston within about 30 seconds of the power cutting off in his machine shop. The EMP following the explosion kills most everything electronic in town, including his father who happens to have an artificial heart. He quickly leaves his place of business and goes to look for his mother. When he cannot find her, he leaves a note, goes to his home, gathers his wife and kids in an old van that he had restored just for this type of scenario (no modern electronics!) and leaves within an hour to flee the city.

As a reader, I was so annoyed with the pace of this section of the story that I wanted to put it down. I didn't feel like I really gained any insight into Lee's character, other than the fact that he was out to save himself at all costs. To me, the main character was introduced as a sociopathic genius who possibly suffers from Asperger's. He knew that the US had just been attacked, his parents were either dead or going to die, and he doesn't take any time to cope with the scenario. The author attempted to use this "selfish" trait to help Lee assimilate into his new hometown and befriend the mayor later in the book, but the way he was introduced didn't make me, as a reader, think he was a morally complicated man who was weighing his family's survival against that of his neighbors and parents. I just thought he was an antisocial guy who fancied himself to be the white Bruce Lee.

The strength of this book is the exciting action and the battles for survival that ensue over the months and years following the nuclear attack. The action sequences are well done, as are many of the characters in the town of Rejas. I was glad that I got through the beginning of the book and continued reading until the main bad guy, Larry, reemerged.

The problem with Larry is that he is a Bond villain living in East Texas. Lee first encounters Larry outside of Houston on a rural road where he has already ambushed several drivers and stolen their supplies. Larry has five guys working for him, including a huge asian dude who is a martial arts master and has taught Larry his skills. What!? So, within hours of an attack this dude has already decided that the social structure is so broken down that he can attack random drivers and take their stuff? His county hasn't been attacked, there are still law enforcement officers, judges, jails, etc. There is no way that Larry, who was probably watching a college football game when the power went out, had already decided that he must build his own band of marauders to survive the apocalypse. Even if he had, how did he get the other guys to obey his orders? The reader has to suspend too much rational thought to believe this plot device. The conveniently-placed asian martial arts master is the icing on the cake.

Most troubling of all -- who dropped the bombs? Why is that never discussed? The answer to that question would undoubtably shape the response of the survivors and influence their decision-making process. I think the author excluded it because he just wanted to get his battle between the two types of people who will survive the nuclear holocaust: those who prepare and might be called "crazy" now, but will be proved right in the future (Lee) and those that are evil and do anything it takes to survive in a world without law and order (Larry). Unfortunately, both characters are too close to cartoon characters to make that battle really compelling.

With additional editing and character development this book could be very good. Due to the obvious holes and too-singular focus on getting to the war between Lee and Larry without delving into the other parts of the story, it is only okay.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 27, 2012 12:07:23 PM PST
I suspect that, in the event of an event such as the one described in this book, we'd never know who started the bombing or who finished it. Everything electronic is gone in an instant; we'd have no way to find out what actually happened.
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