enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: John Ringo, Under a Graveyard Sky

I read this book about 1-Jul-2014. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2013. This note was last modified Thursday, 24-Jul-2014 22:16:27 PDT.

This is book 1 of the "Black Tide Rising" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


I read another zombie novel. I even knew it when I went in.

And I hate zombies as an idea. And I hate zombie apocalypse novels for many reasons including the people writing them seem to love destroying civilization too much—and often let it hang on much more strongly than it should (when food production and distribution are disrupted).

What makes this one worth reading is that it's a family survival story. Dad is a security consultant for a major bank. Mom and two teenage daughters are the rest of the family. And there's an uncle who gets them lots of important information from the bank. He might even be alive at the end of the book, off in the bank's redoubt.

The zombie plague is engineered, and deliberately released, apparently by a lone nut (who is not caught by the end of the book; not sure if catching him is going to be important in the series, or if he's in fact just a nut of no interest). It's not exactly terrorism, he's not trying to accomplish anything that we can tell. It has two forms, a bad flu, followed by going zombie. Zombie mode can spread by itself, by being bitten for example (fluid transfer).

First they hang out in New York (where dad works, but which he hates), but start preparing and being careful. They work on the bank's vaccine program, and do manage to get vaccinated. The younger daughter is the realy family expert in mayhem, and ends up being the one doing most of the zombie clearance work, which is a nice touch. And dad worries that it's psychologically bad for her. But they're in a zombie apocalypse and he has limited ability to protect her from it. And they need the eggs, or at least they need all the combat-capable people they can get.

First stage of the family survival plan for this is to go out on a sailboat, and stay away from land (this is for general biological attack scenarios, but specifically including zombie apocalypse; I absolutely believe that if you're a prepper family you'll consider some unlikely but interesting scenarios).

This book approaches but never quite gets to one of the big issues about devoting lots of resources to preparing to survive disasters: it takes resources (time and money) away from other things. Is it worth it? Sure, it's embarassing to not be prepared if the disaster happens, but if it doesn't happen sometimes you, or at least your kids, will be feeling they've lost a lot of life preparing for nonsense (if you went that deeply into it). This is one reason, I think, that so many preppers come off as really hoping for a disaster. It'll finally prove them right to all their friends! And perhaps people who don't actually like civilization are attracted to "prepping". ("Prepper" sounds even stupider than "survivalist" to me, but it seems to be the preferred term currently.)

As the weather gets worse (fall coming on) and the radios on shore shut down they move to a power boat, and start meeting other boats with people, mostly somewhat traumatized. And they start rescuing people, and slowly build up to "Wolf Squadron" with people who join them.

They also get some contact with the stump of the government, via a submarine that monitors their communications, and they end up cooperating with them some. They're clearing bigger and bigger ships, and finding a few survivors each time (not many).

And dad is thinking longer-term about how they can put anything back together. I imagine he'll end up somewhat at odds with the government occasionally. There are several additional books; in fact I read this because I read Ringo's Facebook page when he was talking about writing something like the third of them. Some of the characters sounded interesting.

Weirdest thing about this book is that two or three times characters suddenly go off into essentially unmotivated anti-liberal rants using the stupidest stereotypes running around. The rest of the time, they behave as good liberals should, helping others, cooperating when they can, and so forth. Jolts me out of the story pretty badly.


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David Dyer-Bennet