Review: Black Tide Rising (Anthology – Book #5)

Black Tide Rising (Black Tide Rising anthologies Book 1)Black Tide Rising by John Ringo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An anthology of stories in the Black Tide Rising universe created by John Ringo. A great mix of well known authors play around in the sandbox of the master of Mil-SF. It’s a great adder to the overall universe. Typical mix of good and mediocre found in an anthology, but mostly good. The final Ringo story also might leave you gape-jawed at the potential for things to come in the series.

TLDR: The Flint, Williamson, and last Ringo stories are worth the price of the book. These three get 5 stars. There are other good ones as well in the anthology. My average rating for the book is 3 stars (36 over 12 stories), and I call it a Worthwhile Read.

Individual story ratings below. Beware of spoilers (I try not to, but they are short stories, so…)

Never Been Kissed by John Ringo (2 star)

Very short. Musings of Faith about the fate of all the people she knew.

Up on the Roof by Eric Flint (5 stars)

An excellent story of a group of survivors who make an excellent choice to ride out the apocalypse atop a gasoline tank farm. Really good setup, detailed enough without being boring, and good character development in a short time. I would like to read a full novel about this group.

Staying Human by Jody Lynn Nye (1 star)

Missed the mark on several key points about the behavior of the zombies in this universe. Sentiment is all over the place and turns very preachy about being better and not seeking revenge against the ‘poor infected’. Waste of my time.

On the Wall by John Scalzi & Dave Klecha (2 stars)

Annoying. Some humor, but of the obnoxious variety. The entire story is dialogue, which makes it read like an episode of Gilmore Girls. One of the characters is such a douche that he needed to be thrown to the zombies.

Do No Harm by Sarah Hoyt (3 stars)

An ER nurse must come to grips with ‘kill or be killed’ as the hospital is overrun with zombies. Good story. Great character development for a short story length tale.

Not in Vain by Kacey Ezell (3 stars)

A group of cheerleaders and their coach must step up if they want to reach a safe haven in the zombie apocalypse. Excellent character development, but too short. I want more!

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Grandpa? by Michael Z. Williamson (5 stars)

Grandpa is a vet, but his grandkids think he’s a gun hoarder that needs an intervention… until the zombies hit. Best one in the book. Grandpa was right, and he ain’t taking no more of your crap, you little shits!

Battle of the BERTs by Mike Massa (3 stars)

Interesting story of the teams sent out to control infected on the streets of New York before everything gets completely out of control. This one ties in directly with events form Book 1 in the series.

The Road to Good Intentions by Tedd Roberts (3 stars)

A small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains could be a refuge for some, but only if they can keep outside influences from ruining things. One man struggles with his own religious issues as the local pastor calls his survival of the fever a miracle and sets him up as a beacon of hope. A decent story with good details, but the ending is abrupt and left hanging. The use of religion as a plot device is bothersome.

200 Miles to Huntsville by Christopher Smith (2 stars)

A post-war Vet turned cop, his dirty-cop partner, and the prisoner they are escorting find themselves in a cultish Hicksville, Texas as the final shoe begins to drop. I didn’t care for this one mainly because of the use of religion as a plot device. The writing and characters were ok, but the blurring of good/bad would not be something I’d want to keep reading for much longer.

Best Laid Plans by Jason Cordova & Eric S. Brown (2 stars)

A group of thieves are determined to rob the Louvre despite the zombie apocalypse. Interesting, but too short to get to know the characters well. The humor is quirky and not all that funny to me (others might find it more so).

The Meaning of Freedom by John Ringo (5 stars)

An interesting interlude that shows the true nature of the ‘beta’ zombies that has been hinted at in the main series. It raises a huge moral question, which I won’t spoil. This one is a thinker, unlike the ‘killing infected’ or ‘using infected for medicine’ questions that I found to be trite in the main series itself. This story is a must read for the series.

Happy Reading!

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Review: Strands of Sorrow (Black Tide Rising Book #4)

Strands of Sorrow (Black Tide Rising, #4)Strands of Sorrow by John Ringo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another winner in the Black Tide Rising series. This one finally brings the recovery of America back to the home shores. The hyper-effective Faith Marie Smith, who has now become the central character of the series, continues to push the limits of get it done action and zombie stomping. Luckily, she is surrounded by survivor types that come up with more ingenious ways to rid the land of its post-human plague.

The action in this one is almost non-stop. The logistics-speak is so finely woven with the next big zombie killing spree that you hardly notice it. I continue to learn new mil-speak each book I read, and I absolutely love to see what goodies that go boom will come from tackling the next hurdle in the race to save as much of humanity that remains. Characters continue to grow, and some new one get added to give yo more to like. Even the screw-ups seem to get a chance to shine.

From more guns on a helicopter than should ever be thought about, to tomahawks raising an entire host of infected, to the unparalleled bad-assery of an M1A1 Abrams (named Trixie of course) that pirouettes like a ballet dancer on a zombie juice slip-and-slide, this book will most assuredly peg out your kick-assometer! I give it four stars and call it a Kick Ass Read!

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Review: Islands of Rage & Hope (Black Tide Rising Book #3)

Islands of Rage & Hope (Black Tide Rising, #3)Islands of Rage & Hope by John Ringo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

YES! Finally we get to a real Ringo ringer! This one was perfectly balanced in terms of action, character development, and that patented Ringo ‘Holy crap, how did you think of that! That’s so friggin’ cool’ factor. I got several ‘Hell, Yeah!’ fist pump moments in this one, and one hell of an ending!

The plot takes you from the Atlantic crossing from the Canary Islands to Gitmo. Then you have lots of different scenarios encountered during the clearance of the Windward Isles as they search for the ingredients to make vaccine for the sub sailors that are still trapped in self-imposed quarantine. The last two ‘missions’ are pretty awesome, but I won’t spoil those.

The main characters grow a lot in this one, and the Smith girls are still hyper-capable, but not as in-your-face Mary Sue as the last book. You get to meet some other folks that I found quite interesting, but I won’t spoil that for you. Hey, you even get to meet some royalty in this one!

Even the logistics portions of the book seemed to be more interesting and less info-dumpy that the last book. Probably because it’s interspersed with more action. And, thankfully, the mil-speak was much better explained in this one. I actually learned quite a bit.

I highly recommend this book, and it alone make the series worth diving into. I give it five stars and call it an Hoorah! Read.

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Review: To Sail a Darkling Sea (Black Tide Rising Book #2)

To Sail a Darkling Sea (Black Tide Rising, #2)To Sail a Darkling Sea by John Ringo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 2 of the Black Tide Rising series is the continuation of the exploits of the Wolf Squadron, a rag-tag flotilla of ships and survivors of the zombie apocalypse. John Smith and his daughters Sophia (age 15) and Faith (age 13) continue to save as many people as possible at sea while pushing forward with plans to save humanity by reclaiming the land. First, they have to perfect their techniques for moving the fleet and clearing some beachheads.

The plot of this sequel is basically the continuing story of trying to get your ducks in a row… and the ducks are drunk. The hinted at objective from book 1, reclaim Guantanamo Bay and start manufacturing a cure, is postponed due to weather (hurricane season) and is only launched on the last pages. The rest of the story is about the re-establishment of military discipline & organization, and supply lines. It’s a book about logistics. It’s interesting, but it is also NOT much of an action adventure book. Sure, there are a few zombie encounters which keep the pacing decent, but the focus is heavily on military maneuvers, the reasons for following orders, and a lot of inside jokes that you almost have to BE military to understand. I am not, so they fell on deaf ears.

I also find that the Sophia & Faith characters are annoyingly Mary Sue. It’s difficult to suspend my disbelief at times, especially when they all start talking the same. The stilted replies of “Point” (meaning ‘You have a point.’) and “Works” (meaning ‘That works.’) from different characters is standing out so much that I cringe when I see it.

I like the series. I like the premise. I even like the logistics discussions. I just hope the third book is better with more action. I give this book three stars and call it a Mediocre Read.

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Review: A Place Called Hope

A Place Called Hope (Z-Day, #2)A Place Called Hope by Daniel Humphreys

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Apocalypse starts today! Z-Day is OCTOBER 18th, 2017.

The 2nd installment of Daniel Humphreys’ Z-Day series, A Place Called Hope, is even better than than book 1! Why stop when you’re on a roll, right?

I had the privilege of being a Beta Reader for this novel (yes, that means I got it for free, but I wold have bought it anyway, even if I hadn’t). Now you can read it too!

In fact, as of right now (10/18/17), you can grab Book 1: A Place Outside the Wild, and Book 2: A Place Called Hope, on Amazon for only $0.99 each! Go get them!

The pacing of this book is amazing. It starts with the obligatory opening ass-kicking scene, of course. Next, you get the beginning of a flashback tale that begins about six months after Z-Day from the perspective of a different survivor, Sandy. He has a very unique tale, and his journey is one of metamorphosis. It is much closer to a Walking Dead, in-the-thick-of-it survival tale. It is interspersed with the main story line which is now revolving around Pete Matthews, and his friend Charley (whose special nature makes him indispensable) who tags along as they join up with the remnants of the military forces of the U.S. that are trying to reclaim America for humanity.

The new characters you get to meet in this book, mostly military personnel, are ones you will find it hard to forget. Their heroic actions and their front-line humor will also stick in your mind.

A Place Called Hope is still a zombie apocalypse novel, but it is also a military science fiction novel. In fact, it is blended so well, that I found it un-put-downable. There is also the main underlying mystery of how the plague started, and what’s going on with the zombies NOW, that make it part intrigue as well. It’s a great book, and it will leave you wanting more!

I give it 4 stars and call it a Give Me More Read!

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Review: A Place Outside The Wild

A Place Outside The WildA Place Outside The Wild by Daniel Humphreys

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Place Outside The Wild is not a typical dystopian novel despite its setting – eight years post zombie apocalypse – which I think makes it a unique read in the genre. The characters are fully fleshed (no pun intended), as is the world. There are twists to the plot that grabbed me by the collar and shook the crap out of me. The biggest flaw was the slow build up to said twists. It was never boring (good suspense), but it is very light on action (after the opening grab) up to almost the 70% mark. I like the work very much, and plan to read the next in the series.

The story is centered on a small enclave of survivors who have managed to ‘wait out’ the zombie life-spans (or so they believe) and scratch out a steadily improving life post Z-day. They have their internal struggles: politics, psychological and social issues, that are all consequences of the apocalypse. The society described in this book is totally believable and will suck you into itself.

The overall plot arc of the zombies and their origins is also a major deviation from most of the stories I’ve seen. You are given hints throughout, some of which I admit I questioned as odd at first, until the final shoe drops. When it does, it’s a Bozo the Clown sized sum-bitch that will leave you gaping at the ramifications!

Now for the ‘critical’ part of my review, which I almost hate to give because I know the difficulties in writing… but I started these reviews to remind myself about my feeling on the books I read, so… here it is. I have two things that keep me from giving the book the fifth star on Goodreads. They are related to pacing and conflict resolution.

Firstly, the drawback to having many small side arcs in the novel is that while they do help build tension and give the overall world more detail, they are also a bit dull to hold onto all the way to the end. All the side arcs fed the climax. If they had been a bit more self-contained I think they would have helped the pacing, giving it more of an ebb-and-flow of action and resolution.

Secondly, the resolutions in the end felt a bit dues-ex-machina in nature. The climax of the overall plot was exciting, but the side arc resolutions were a bit of a let-down, especially when I had already felt them to be a bit slow in the first place.

I can’t explain this well without spoilers, so let me smooth out the criticisms here for anyone reading this review… these are only slight negatives. The book is still getting FOUR STARS!

If you like being immersed in a world and surprised by new concepts to an already expansive genre, then this book is one you need to read. It puts a twist to the zombie origin story that has so much potential it will stagger you. It also doesn’t drag you to the depths of despair, but shows the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable odds. Read the book. I give it four stars and call it a Great Read!

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