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Under a Graveyard Sky (Black Tide Rising) Mass Market Paperback – June 24, 2014
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About the Author
John Ringo brings fighting to life. He is the creator of the Posleen Wars series, which has become a New York Times best-selling series with over one million copies in print. The series contains A Hymn Before Battle, Gust Front, When the Devil Dances, Hell’s Faire and Eye of the Storm. In addition, Ringo has penned the Council War series: There Will be Dragons, Emerald Sea, Against the Tide, and East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Adding another dimension to his skills, Ringo created nationally best-selling techno-thriller novels about Mike Harmon (Ghost, Kildar, Choosers of the Slain, Unto the Breach, A Deeper Blue, and, with Ryan Sear, Tiger by the Tail). His techno-thriller The Last Centurion was also a national best seller. A more playful twist on the future is found in novels of the Looking-Glass series: Into the Looking Glass, Vorpal Blade, Manxome Foe and Claws That Catch, the last three in collaboration with Travis S. Taylor. His audience was further enhanced with four collaborations with fellow New York Times best-selling author David Weber: March Upcountry, March to the Sea, March to the Stars and We Few. There are an additional five collaborative spinoffs from the Posleen series: The Hero, written with Michael Z. Williamson, Watch on the Rhine, Yellow Eyes and The Tuloriad, all written with Tom Kratman, and the New York Times best seller Cally’s War and its sequels Sister Time and Honor of the Clan, both with Julie Cochrane. In addition, Ringo’s Princess of Wands and Queen of Wands broke new ground in contemporary fantasy adventure. A veteran of the 82nd Airborne, Ringo brings first-hand knowledge of military operations to his fiction.
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The story has several points of view, with the main POV's being from the members of a "survivalist" (or "preparer") family that initially avoids the plague and then works with others during the spread of the plague (and collapse of civilization). There are several exciting action sequences and various moral dilemmas that the survivors have to face (which make for a great read and which I will not spoil here).
The only downsides are that this is the first of what is clearly a series and I was left wanting more. The fate of characters introduced in earlier parts of the story remain unknown (still alive, dead, who knows?). There are hints that a still unknown "enemy" released the plague and is still out there. The book does not so much have an ending as a pause in the action -- I hope the next book comes out in the near future.
So overall, a fun read with more installments to come.
John Ringo writes some kickass action books, in whatever genre he attempts. His `Empire of Man' is beyond excellent, the `Vorpal Blade' series matches it, the `Posleen Saga' tops the charts...the man can write military sci-fi/action like very few others. His heroes are flawed, some extremely so, but soldier on through complex worlds and intricate plots. To steal a phrase from Somebody Important...he doesn't write the hero you want, but the heroes you need.
That said, he insists on writing women...or trying to. Simply put, the man cannot write a convincing female. I assume he knows a few, but only through extremely rose-tinted glasses and a sheen of...well, not even Renaissance rhetoric. He has two stock female characters: Pointless Penelope and Perfect Patricia. The first is there to help a plot point and thereafter discarded; the second can do no wrong and can do everything right.
The first book started out with a bang and kept accelerating. `Graveyard Sky' is the best of the series by far, as we're introduced to our hero(es), the Smith family. The father a former Australian para with a heavy interest in prepping for the inevitable apocalypse. His wife, Stacey, whom we can refer to as Pointless Penelope, his 15 year old daughter Sophia, who can be referred to as Pointless Penny (since she does get a few decent scenes and attention in 4 large books), and his 13 year old daughter Perfect Patricia...errr, Faith.
In this first book, a zombie plague is released by Bad Guys...who are and will always remain UnSub...and the world goes to a hell where only the strong and prepared with survive. This is the Smith family, and the first book is chock full of action, believable plot-lines, and in short, pretty much everything you want from this sort of book.
Book Two and beyond, though, turns into Perfect Patricia Saves The World. Keep in mind, please, that Perfect Patricia is a 13 y.o. girl. She's not a mutant with superpowers, she didn't arrive from Krypton, she wasn't the result of a super-soldier experiment. If she had been, the entire series would have earned five stars instead of four. Perfect Patricia...err, Faith...or Shewolf as she comes to be known, is a normal 13 y.o. girl, Active, in good physical health, with some decent firearms training courtesy of Dear Old Prepper Dad. Several scenes have badass military hardcases barely escaping a zombie's grip because they're so strong and don't feel pain and will not stop unless you destroy the brain. Somehow, Perfect Patricia manages to destroy literal hordes of them in hand-to-hand combat. She fights for hours and days on end. Now, 13 year-olds, male and female, seem to have a lot of energy, but it's a rollercoaster, almost manic depressive. Their body chemistry changing as puberty has its way with them, lots of energy followed by lots of sleeping and adjustment. Their skeletal structure and everything out from there shifting from Child to Adult. Having a 13 y.o. girl in the middle of these fundamental changes being the baddest zombie killer on the planet? Kinda takes you right out of the believable fictional world you dove into. Perfect Patricia...errr, Faith...does things the most hardcore Delta Force, SEAL, or Spetznatz couldn't even dream about. She is literally unstoppable, and the few `humanizing' attempts Ringo makes last a paragraph and are only ever mentioned in passing (yes, Trixie, I'm talking about you).
That's her downside. The upside is she gets the most attention and the best scenes in the books. If she'd been a 19 or 20 year old martial arts champion or competitive weightlifter or something, I would buy it wholeheartedly and give Ringo two thumbs up and lots of lavish praise. Not to provide spoilers, if you don't move Drowning Pool's `Let The Bodies Hit The Floor' onto your Favorite Playlist, thee may be something wrong with you. That entire portion of the book is beyond amazing, and it focuses almost completely and necessarily on Perfect Patricia...errr, Faith.
Even she's not enough to lose the series a star, though. *That* happens because...Ringo apparently got bored. The first two books are easily 5+ stars. Books 3 and 4, with a few very notably exceptional scenes, drop down to bare 3 stars. They stop being personal, intricate involving scenes and devolve into Big Picture broad strokes as Ringo apparently wanted to get the series done with and move on to something new. Instead of a chapter involving a pitched, desperate battle in NYC or clearing a cruise ship, it becomes: "We're going to take this base." Three pages later, they have that base and are moving on to the next base. Three pages later they're consolidating the entire Eastern Seaboard and about to move to free DC. A major plot point involving Shewolf being removed from command is handled in a few pages and with no lasting impact. Another could-be-major plot point involving the Succession Act lasts a chapter and...that's it.
So, for fans of apocalyptic fiction, this probably won't disappoint. The first two books alone are worth the cost of the whole series, and the last two aren't *bad*, they're just nowhere near as powerful as the first two. Ringo got bored and wrapped things up too quickly...there was at *least* one more book there...in the main quartet, I mean, not the add-ons and collaborations that have since been released. I think Ringo recognized this and brought on a couple others to write while he oversees the process. I haven't read them, so can't pass any sort of judgment.
I just hope one or some of them can write believable female badasses. I would give an assortment of stranger's left arms to see a series by John Ringo and...Elizabeth Moon, Patricia Briggs, Seanan McGuire, Kelly Armstrong, Kim Harrison...I would say David Weber for Honor Harrington, but Ringo has worked with him...
Anyway, buy the series and judge for yourself.
I was thrilled when I discovered he was writing a Zombie Apocalypse series and it doesn't disappoint. I love the strong characters, both female and male, and their believable reactions to the world ending around them. I also adore the drive that they have to rebuild, even if they never see a reasonably stable society in their lifetime.
I waited impatiently for the second installment and now have equal impatience for the third. I have already started to recommend this to my friends and therefore have no problem recommending it to anyone who can deal with a very true-to-life story of how actual people would react in this situation.