Monday, May 7, 2012

Death Pulse: A review

David Alexander's Death Pulse is a story about the lead up and occurrence of a neo-Soviet nuclear EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse)  strike in the vicinity of New York City.

David Alexander is a writer of low brow military fiction.  Or at least, I think that's what he is.  A trip to his website puts him all over the map, or might we say, loosely anchored.

The author's view of humanity reminds me a lot of the American Apocalypse 's series Nova, in so far as their is very strange twisted view of human sexual affairs. Almost all the people in the story are either having affairs, or have partners who are cheating on them. It is like entering the febrile imagination of a 14 year old boy who has done a little too much adventurous surfing on the web.

There are a fair amount of whiz bang technical matters that take place during the novel. The author doesn't get any of them right: any of them. It starts in the prequel chapter, where a Sherman tank is firing a 20mm cannon at the escaping Nazis, and the Nazi's firing back with mounted MP-32 field machine guns (Sherman tanks had much larger cannon, and MP-32 is a machine pistol, unlike the famous MG-42) , Ukrainians who work in highly classified Russian facilities (even though the Ukraine is a separate country from Russia and would not be trusted),helicopters that plunge to the ground when their power dies (rather then flutter down as they normally would), to silenced revolvers (few revolvers can be silenced), how transformers work (they don't convert DC power to AC) and EMP results that are more exagerated than even the typical fictional accounts -except when the author forgets that vehicles and electronics are not supposed to be working.  So people occassionaly hope into a vehicle and drive around, after they have all been knocked out.  Here is my favorite:

By now the passengers' eyesight had adjusted to the meager quantum of light that exists even in pitch darkness so that at close distances the outline of figures was vaguely discernible.

If you are deep underground, and all the lights go out, you are not going to be seeing outlines of anything. Shoot, I have gotten stuck in my garage, with doors closed, at night when the light went out, and it is amazing how truly blind you are.
In this novel, the New Yorkers show an even greater alacrity to go crazy than the British do in their catastrophe novels.
The street people saw it happen, and although they did not articulate the thought, they understood .  Their time had come. how and why was not important.  All that mattered was that the world beyond the streets had, in a brief spasm of sudden flame out, relinquished all control.  And now control was in their hands.
A wordless communication immediately took place, much like the kind that transforms solitary grasshoppers into swarms of locust.

Really?  And this is fast.  People don't even have time to get out of their stalled cars before the swarms of hoodlums are upon them.  And of course locust and grasshoppers are not the same creature.

The New York in the novel sounds a lot like the New York City of the 1980s.  I almost wonder if this isn't a novel that the author wrote as a child back then - after reading Warday- and after making a couple of minor changes, threw it out into the electronic marketplace.  It would explain why a supposed writer of military based novels wouldn't even get minor details correct, and why the Malaysian Vets, sound an awful lot like Vietnam Vets.  Warday left out the street level gore in New York City: this author adds it back in.

Alright, I need to wrap it up here.  There is more oddness, but life is short.

Did I like it?  No.  A few reasonable characters, usually mishandled, in a morass of infantile hostility.  Marty, the wanna-be mercenary, who is school teacher sucking up disability payments is hilarious at times, but then somehow is actually able to turn into a warrior type to beat back the jungle Bronx hordes.  The subway conductor, ex-Vietnam Malaysian vet is quiet, but reasonable.  But then is thrown into the typical New York subway tunnels turned into Dungeons and Dragons labyrinth scenario.  The rest of it is useless.

Our descriptive ratings, that are generally not intended as qualitative assessments.  They number 1 to 7: with 7 being high. 

Realism is actually rather tough.  The book's scenario is implausible, but that is not counted within this rating.  The characters activities, and the general course of actions taken are O.K., but only within the extremely freakish circumstances the author keeps conjuring up.   Much of the action is more in the way of a gross-out, than a narrative.   All this very bizarre activity takes place on the very first night the power goes out.   The first person narrative (switching between characters) helps a little, but in the end I am going to say that it is well below average at a 2.   You think I am being unfair?  Four words: Mall cop with chainsaw.

Readability is also hard.  In this case it is because of the very crude, and course thought pattern of almost all the characters.  I am pressed to think of a single refined character within the entire large assembly.   It is at least in part pornographic.  Although the author does not take you through an hours long rape-blinding scene, he leads you well into the course of action.   But while pornography could be said to be disgusting, it is not usually thought to contain difficult language, or difficult symbolic concepts that slow up the pace of reading.  The book is disjointed, and very slow in getting started.  There is entire subplots, secret Nazi remnant enclaves for one, that seem to go absolutely nowhere.  The muddledness, there is a lot of it, gets it a below average 3.
Presumed phot of author - from his website


PioneerPreppy said...

Sounds like one to skip.

russell1200 said...

If it wasn't so mean spirited it would almost make for a good satire of the excesses of the genre. The more I thought about it, the more I am convinced that he wrote it as a kid and just "updated" the events so that he could release at an e-book.