|Faith takes a breather from killing zombies.|
It has been a long time since I read a zombie novel. A couple of weeks ago I read a review of a zombie novel called Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo on Shelldrake's Zombie Wargame Blog run by my good friend Ian, aka Patient Zero, administrator of the Board of the Living Lead forum. See here - http://zombiewargame.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/john-ringos-black-tide-rising-zombie.html
Ian liked this novel because the hero was an Aussie and Ian lives in Australia. I was interested in reading it because a) it's a zombie apocalypse novel, b) I'm happy to be persuaded by other people's recommendations and c) I've read a few of John Ringo's sci-fi novels and very much enjoyed them. So I had high hopes of this novel, which, by the way, is part one of a proposed four-part series called Black Tide Rising.
The story focuses on a family of four who are well prepared for almost any disaster, including a zombie apocalypse, which they never believed would happen. Steven John "Wolf" Smith is a naturalised American citizen, former Australian paratrooper and most recently, a high school history teacher. His wife, Stacey aka "Momma Wolf" is a first class mechanic and self-professed geek. They have two daughters, Sophia aka "Seawolf," a 15-year old student, who is good looking, level-headed and intelligent, and Faith aka "Shewolf," a 13-year old firebrand who is very tall for her age and who takes to killing zombies like a duck to water. The family have a survival plan, which they employ as soon as they receive advance news of the upcoming zombie plague from Steve's brother, Tom. Tom works in a private research facility as a scientist and his company is well aware of the threat a newly discovered plague poses. The Smith family grab a boat, stock it full of supplies and head out to sea. A good plan. However, things change dramatically, when they find other boats at sea, whose crews need rescuing. Rather than ignore them they do the right thing and help them. So begins their new mission - save humanity - one boat at a time. This they do in a small way by rescuing anyone in distress at sea, as well as clearing out boats that are overrun with the infected.
Steve is an excellent strategist and a charismatic leader. Stacey excels at ship repairs. Sophia becomes a highly competent helmswoman. And Faith, well, she truly excels at killing zombies. Not only is she VERY good at killing them but she thoroughly enjoys killing them. Soon the family have a flotilla of ships under their command, which they name Wolf Squadron. Most of the world's population were wiped out by the zombie plague but there still remains pockets of humanity. The US Navy suffered catastrophic loses but many of their submarine fleet remained safe. Those in the vicinity of Steve's ragtag collection of survivors take a keen interest in what he is doing and make their presence known. I won't spoil things by saying whether they help or hinder Wolf Squadron.
The book is fast-paced, very exciting and quite humourous. John Ringo is a military veteran, so he knows the jargon and writes very believable scenes and dialogue relating to all things military. The stand out character in the book is 13-year old Faith who steals every scene she is in. Yes, she is a zombie killer par excellence, but her fight scenes are handled realistically. Personally speaking, whenever Faith appears in the book, my face just lights up. She is very much larger than life but I love her. As one Gunnery Sergeant said to her, "damn, I wish you were legal so I could ask you to marry me!" She makes a lasting impression on everyone she meets and especially on this viewer.
I am about half way through the second novel in the series, To Sail a Darkling Sea and it is every bit as good as the first novel. Book three, Strands of Sorrow is released in paperback format at the end of this month. I will be buying it on that day. This a series that I can highly recommend. I'm happy to give Under a Graveyard Sky a 9 out of 10 rating only because it ends rather abruptly, leaving you wanting more. I ordered my copy from Amazon UK, where the paperback version is currently on sale for £6.50. The Kindle edition costs £4.49.