Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chicken Nuggets: The Raptor Apocalypse: A Review

Steve R. Yeager Chicken Nuggets: The Raptor Apocalypse (Kindle) is an apocalyptic story in which some recreated raptor-style dinosaurs shred civilization as we know it.

Steve R. Yeager is a corporate software engineer who has taken up writing as a side hobby.  He lives in Northern California with his wife and two children. He has noted that the original intent was to write a seriously over the top pulp fiction style novel.  As writing continued, he became more serious, but left a comic book edge.

At the start of the novel, Jesse, is a deputy in the sheriff's department headed by his father.  He comes home to turn on the T.V. and see that white ugly looking raptors are running loose in large numbers on the East Coast.
We than take a jump to a refugee camp a couple years later, under siege by the raptors, and the collapse of the last vestiges of civilization.  It is a nasty place, and with some attempts at gruesome scenes that somehow don't quite convince, we get to see it go under. 
Later jumps introduce us to a young man who was part of the intentional release of the bioengineered raptors, and latter still a young woman who is surviving in fortified compound with an odd dictatorial religious figure in charge.  I won't go into the details of the action, because it is best summed up as people wandering around variously fending off raptors.
The raptors were bioengineered from chickens, and at least to start with, about the size of a turkey. This is not that far fetched as scientists have discussed something very much like this. They have the usual sickle claws on their feet, and are exceptionally fast.  The real-life, back in the Cretaceous Period,  raptors laid rather large clutches of eggs (best we know), and real-life turkeys lay clutches of 8 to 15. If there is enough food, captive turkeys in a food factory setting can be slaughtered for market within 14 to 18 weeks.  While the human population seems to be rather slow on the ant-raptor uptake (Why don't they wear armor?), once raptors got loose in the wild, they would be extremely disruptive, and difficult to get rid of.

But the story goes on for a long time and the raptor-collapse story gets a bit thin.  The raptors are basically dangerous, oversized, plucked chickens with teeth and claws.  Where the main action takes place with the raptors it is generally warm, so we can see why they aren't freezing to death.  But, how do naked raptors, whose skin is so thin that it is badly burns in even normal sunlight, survive in the cold weather?  Even South Carolina can get down to 20 degrees in the winter.  So maybe with global warming, they can hang out at the relatively balmy Myrtle Beach.  Their pale skin would make them look like wintering over Canadians.  But what do the raptors in Canada do?  Remember these guys are supposed to be able to kill off mankind.

Lets see, what else?  We do have an appearance of the sacrificial gay supporting hero/sidekick.   Often showing more competence than the lead characters, this type must prove their worth by dying nobly and selflessly for the cause (examples: 1, 2, 3).  Presumably the lesson is that, in an apocalyptic setting, you want to have gay people around because they will do all the fighting, and after its over they won't be needing a share in the dwindling supply of rations.  We also have one of the more emotionally needy heroines around, which she makes up for by being exceptionally talented at manipulating people in self serving manner. 
So did I like it?  The action scenes were often well done.  Particularly those scenes toward the back end of the book.  The young-kid has a Japanese katana, a weapon that is just about perfect for chopping up oversized fowl without the need for a cutting board, and the cut and thrust scenes are actually coherent.  So it wasn't all bad. 
But the book is very uneven in quality.  At the start of the novel,  there is a huge, lengthy build up of father-son antagonism between Jesse and his father. Antagonism that ends abruptly when we are told almost in passing that dear old dad has bitten the dust.   Somewhere in this muddle, the author goes into this odd sort of anti-Iraqi war, anti-veteran spiel that comes very close to the old Vietnam War deal of accusing the vets of being baby killers (in this case they're rapists).   Similarly the buildup between the Katana-kid, and his genocidal mentor is never resolved, and the self-serving religious fanatic in charge of a small group of survivors was getting old when Mel Gibson ran into in the Road Warrior sequel.  The final straw was the cliff hanging ending on a novel stated (at least initially) as being complete.  The author goes so far at one point to say something to the effect of:  if enough of you like it well enough, maybe I'll finish it for you.  Gee thanks!  It is a shame, because there is some interesting material buried within, but I cannot recommend it.

We now come to our two descriptive (not qualitative) ratings: 1 to 7 with 4 the mid-point and 7 high.  Realism does not include the cause of the collapse or apocalypse, but is otherwise an assessment of how close to today's world is the setting.  Could you imagine your friends, or families living through the situation.  Readability is not literary merits, but literally how quick and painless of a read.
Realism is tough.  There are supply issues and some of the survivors have devolved to spears and bows.  Since it is portrayed as a fast-collapse, there is scavenge to be found, the hard part is avoiding the big-chickens while getting it.  If worst-comes-to-worst the raptures do "taste just like chicken".   Comic book ethos with some worrying about supply: I will say it averages out to a 4.
Readability is a little easier.  The narrative is a little confusing, and  rather repetitive with describing similarly gory scenes.  There are page turning moments, but it is not a page turner throughout.  Unless you count various unresolved plot threads, there isn't too much in the way of deep thinking.  It's a 5.


James M Dakin said...

Look at the bright side- it wasn't another friggin zombie book ( speaking of gay... )

russell1200 said...

James: I have only recently read a few books with zombies, and only one (recently) which featured them heavily. So I am not burned out on them just yet. The EMP style book is the one I am finding tiresome. Probably because they do no competent research, yet take themselves way to seriously. Of course it is hard to beat the militia-books for self-seriousness.

Steve Yeager said...

Thanks for the review. You pointed out a few things I would agree on and a few things I would clarify. The gay character was originally a female character, but that made it difficult to use the line about Adam and Eve leaving the garden... so... simple as that.

And about vets, I would never want to give a negative impression. All those scenes were for dramatic effect and not to be taken too seriously.

The main premise of the book came from a rather ridiculous idea that I started pulling into a more serious direction. However, I didn't want to give up that pulpy feel completely.

But I"m not done yet, either, there are two more books in the storyline.

Feel free to email me (address is in back of book). If there are story threads you feel need closure, or ideas that need explanation, I'd love to hear from you.

russell1200 said...

Steve Yeager: thank you for the explanations.