Sunday, 11 November 2012

Meta Horde by Sean T. Page and John McCuaig

Meta Horde is a new novel by Sean T. Page and John McCuaig. Sean introduced the term "meta horde" in his book, The War Against the Walking Dead. For those of you who missed my review of that book or for those who don't know what a meta horde is, let me tell you. As we all know zombies gather together to form a horde. As time progresses, smaller hordes of zombies will join together to form a bigger horde. Like the snowball effect, more and more large hordes will unite until they create one vast horde - a meta horde - that numbers in the millions. These meta hordes move across countries and continents killing everyone in their path and growing ever larger as more and more zombies join them. A meta horde is almost impossible to stop. A nuclear strike is one of the few effective ways of stopping them but seeing as they take so long to grow (two years at least) who would still have the capability of launching a nuclear strike if there are so few human survivors left at that time?
This novel concentrates on a group of survivors holed up in the walled town of Carcassonne in Southern France. They are in the direct path of a meta horde that numbers over ten million zombies and is growing in size. Most of continental Europe has been wiped out by the undead menace.
Dr. Raymond Carter is one of a very small group of scientists tasked with finding a way of stopping the meta horde. His solution is to take a small strike team to a nuclear power plant in Belgium, that lies in the path of the meta horde. His plan is to turn the nuclear reactor into a bomb that will wipe out most of the meta horde when it reaches the power plant.
All goes well at first, until a traitor in the group reveals himself and with the help of a covert group of soldiers from the Vatican, who were already hiding at the facility, prevents the reactor fom going into meltdown.
Carter and a few others escape by a helicopter piloted by an Italian who brought the Vatican team in and they travel across the North Sea to York in Northern England. Here, a small group of survivors have held out in the walled city. But, they too face a threat from a meta horde, albeit a much smaller one, numbering a couple of million. That is still more than enough to devastate York's meagre population of a few thousand. However, the defenders do have an ace up their sleeve - three M.O.A.B.s, which stands for Mass Ordnance Air Blast or more colloquilallly as the Mother Of All Bombs! The only problem was that the defenders had no aircraft to carry the bombs and were intending to drive out with them on a suicide mission for the drivers and detonate them amidst the zombies when they got far enough into the meta horde. To say more would take me too far into spoiler territory.
I enjoyed this novel a lot although I did have some criticisms of it. My biggest gripe was with the splinter group of the Roman Catholic Church, who saw the meta hordes as a good thing and who wanted them to wipe out humanity as God's punishment for all their sins and evilness and to cleanse the earth. I found them too silly to be at all credible. And when you see what happens to the group at the end of the novel I did question how they gained so much power and influence in the first place?
Without doubt, the best thing about the novel was the meta hordes. The very idea of them is such a frightening concept that if they ever did become a reality, humanity could well face extinction. The authors did suggest that walled cities like York and Carcassonne offered the best chances for survivors to hold out. But they also pointed out that given the sheer numbers of the meta hordes that it would only be a matter of time before the cities were overcome by the relentless tide of zombies. As Sean T. Page mentioned in The War Against the Walking Dead the best way to stop a meta horde is to prevent it from forming in the first place.
This was a good novel but not a great novel and so I'd rate it with a 7 out of 10 score.

31 comments:

  1. Thats a very interesting review and process into the world of the walking dead.

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    1. First of all, welcome aboard, PK. Secondly, thanks for the comment.

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  2. I seriously picked this one apart while I was reading it. From the military stuff (NO US Marine is ever okay with being called a soldier, we'll correct ANYONE that tries it), to the ballistics, to the science, it was wildly inaccurate. Normally I'm good with the suspension of disbelief, this was so bad I struggled with it.

    I absolutely agree, the meta hordes themselves were the stars of this book. It's not the first time we've seen them in fiction (The Walking Dead, WWZ, Zone One all mentioned them), it was the first time they were stole the show like this.

    I just have to wonder why NATO would hole up in a walled city rather one, or more, of the Channel Islands. Mr Page makes a point of stating a few times in the Ministry of Zombies books that zombies wouldn't walk under water, in fact wouldn't willingly enter the water, making this a bit of a logical failing.

    Which brings me to an interesting point. I think it would be interesting to look at coming up with some rules for hordes and meta hordes in ATZ.

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    1. Seeing as I have never served in the military I couldn't possibly comment on the accuracy of the authors' military knowledge But I can quite believe you, Jon.

      No doubt about it the stars of the novel were the meta-hordes. Can you just imagine the size of the one mentioned at the end of the book in China? Feck me, but over 100, million zombies! If I saw that lot heading towards me I'd need a clean pair of pants!

      You make a good point about making use of large islands as population centres. Even if they were zombie infested, by their very size they could be made safe by a determined strike force.

      Ever since I first read about meta hordes I wondered about how best to represent them in a game like ATZ. To be honest, I don't think they can be. ATZ is just a skirmish game at heart and I don't think that the game mechanics could cope with such numbers needed for a large horde, say 500+ zombies, never mind a meta horde numbering in the millions. For that kind of encounter I think you need a set of wargaming rules. I would like to find a way to represent a struggle against a meta horde on the gaming table as it is a long term goal for my ATZ-FFO campaign.

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    2. I wonder if adding a "horde" base to ATZ would be a start. The modelling on the subject on the Board of the Living Dead would be a great visual representation. In the skirmish game it would definitely be something to avoid, to hide from.

      I'm considering adding a "campaign step" based on dice pools. The adventures would affect the rolls, by giving more dice to either the horde or the survivors. This way we could start planning some specific games, say raiding a National Guard armory, or clearing a flight line so the pilot the team found can drop the MOAB the team secured earlier on the horde, to try to break it apart.

      I think it's something we should really start delving into on BotLD. I'd be really interested to run a campaign between a few of us where we're all tackling the same meta horde.

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    3. Oh Jon, buddy, I love your thinking. This is a subject that I would love to discuss at great length. The idea of zombie bloggers working together, even if in totally different locations, to prevent a meta horde forming has great merit. We have to make this happen!

      Starting a new thread on the BotLL forum about this subject is also a great idea. I'd like to hear input from other zombie gamers on this subject.

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    4. Well, I put a thread up on the Board. Let's see what comes of it!

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    5. Sounds interesting. I've put a couple of quick ideas up on the board off the top of my head and i'm keen to see where this goes!

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    6. I've been away all day, so I'll go and check the forum now.

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  3. The metahorde sounds horrendous and a game changer, like something I saw on the World War Z trailer!

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    1. A meta horde would certainly be a game changer, Fran. As for the World War Z trailer what can I say but what a pile of fecking shite! :(

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  4. Interesting, I love your reviews, I'm also a military man, but will get this one anyway.

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    1. In that case, you'll be able to vouch for the accuracy of the military sequences far better than I could. I hope you enjoy it.

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  5. An interesting sounding book Bryan. I will seek it out I'm intrigued.

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    1. Go for it, Simon. Once again, I hope you enjoy it.

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  6. I read the book last week, and found it enjoyable. The sudden turnaround by the Catholic Church was very implausable as they often take centuries to reach any decision!

    Wargaming Zombie Meta-Hordes could be acheived using Colonial Rules. Large numbers of native troops are often represented as slow moving, lacking in firepower, but deadly once they get into hand to hand combat. You can recycle 'dead' zombies to create the endless numbers of the Horde. Firepower may hold them at bay, terrain may be used to channel their attack, but in the end if you run out of bullets and have no-where to go you are dead.

    A game might be based on a group who are attempting to get through to a location to place a bomb, or who operate on th edges of the Horde to try and attract as many Zombies as possible away from one table edge etc.

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    1. That's not a bad idea about Colonial Adventures. With the THW system it would be pretty easy to make everything work.

      I think with the way meta-hordes work if the humans have to actually fight them they've already lost. The point of the campaign would be to keep the zombies from coalescing into a horde that large.

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    2. Frank, your description of natives in Colonial Wars is bang on perfect for zombies. Also, Varangian is right as well, you do not want to get into a melee fight with a zombie horde. Even a firefight is fraught with danger if, as would seem likely, you don't have enough ammo to kill them all.

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    3. If you can retain mobility you can at least damage the Horde, and possibly draw it off in a particular direction. I'm reminded of Natal Mounted Police slowing and distracting part of the Zulu army at Isandlwhana(?) Some Science Fiction games also depict Alien forces as a form of Horde or swarm (Starship Troopers), however once again you would need an interesting scenario with a specific objective for one side, whilst the Horde simply has to advance and kill eerything it finds!
      There is a game called 'Hordes of the things' (HOTT) which is a set of fast-play fantasy rules. A zombie versus humanity games would be interesting and quick! HOTT has several 'troop types' which would make the humanity side interesting to play.
      On balance I think representing smaller Hordes of Zombies passing through an area would be worth playing. Possibly as an unusual occurance in a game. Imagine you are returning to your base when a Horde of 300 Zombies start moving through the area.

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    4. From a table top gaming perspective, Frank, you are absolutely right about keeping things small. As you mentioned, a horde of 300 zombies would be quite a challenge for a small group of survivors,
      I have heard of Hordes of the Things but have never played it and I know very little about it. I must admit that this topic is turning into a fascinating debate.

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  7. Hi everyone, I'm one of the co-authors and I'd just like to thank you all for the review and comments. There's been some great points raised and hopefully Sean and myself can learn from these for our future personal and joint projects.
    Cheers,
    John

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    1. It was a good read. I read it right through.

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    2. Hello, John and many thanks for dropping by. I hope you can see for yourself just how passionate and enthusiastic my followers and I are when it comes to zombies. The concept of zombie meta hordes is something that absolutely fascinates me. That is why I enjoyed yours and Sean's novel so much.

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    3. Thanks Bryan, we were trying to bring something a little bit different to the genre, and it's all too clear the "love" that's emanating from his page for our undead friends.
      John

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    4. I think it's safe to say that you and Sean have certainly brought something different to the genre. My congratulations and thanks to you both.

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  8. It sounds am interesting book but not a "must have" by your account, I've also come across several mentions of mega-hordes in other novels than those mentioned too. In gaming terms, the horde could be map based, its formation could depend on successes or failures in a campaign. It's an interesting topic.

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    1. Thanks, Joe. The idea of creating a map based campaign that can monitor the growth and movement of zombie hordes is very good. We'll see what comes of it as there appears to be a lot interest in this topic.

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  9. whoa neat, will have to find this one for myself.

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    1. I bought mine online from Amazon, if that helps, Chris.

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  10. Thank you for the nice book reviews Bryan! I definately have some extra items in my Amazon cart now because of your reviews hehehe!

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    1. I buy so much stuff from Amazon that I should apply for a bulk discount!

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