Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Endworld: Doomsday - A Review

David Robbins' End World: Doomsday (Amazon, Amazon UK) is an apocalyptic novel that features the efforts of a well healed Hollywood director to set up a fancy survival compound in rural Minnesota, and of a group of selected people to make it to a survival compound before a nuclear-chemical-biological world war does them in.  The novel is a prequel to Endworld (see below),  an earlier series of 1980s post apocalyptic (100 years after the war) men's action adventure stories.

David Robbins according to his Amazon blurb has nine pseudonyms he writes under.  In addition to the 40 Doomsday related titles noted above, the other obviously apocalyptic series to his name is the Omega Sub series (UK) he wrote as J.D. Cameron. For those who like his work, he has a long standing Yahoo Fanclub group.

The original Endworld (Wikipedia) series first came out in 1986 with a total of 27 books in the series. A spin off series, Blade, adds another 13 titles.  As best I understand this novel here restarts the series as a prequel (by 100 years) to the original series At least some of the older books are being reissued with new covers, with audio books also being released. The end of this novel ties in closely with the start of the 1980s series (Fox Run).

The novel starts with filmmaker Kurt Carpenter setting up a select group of survivalists in a compound in a remote section of Minnesota.  The compound, located at/near Lake Bronson State Park (panoramic virtual tour),  has been seven years in the making.  As a nuclear war (featuring an Israel-U.S. standoff with China-Arabic-Persian forces with Russian actions a little unclear) gets rolling, time is running short. The compound is mostly setup for everyone to burrow in and wait out the end: but first everyone has to get there.

I am sort of used to Minnesota as a post-apocalyptic adventure land now (see here, here2, here3). Since this is a prequel to a 1980s series, this is nuclear warfare: weapons of mass destruction, all the way.  None of that crying over a few closed banks.

As action adventure goes, there is some coherence and logic to the action, there may be a fair amount of gee-whiz (not likely to function) gadgetry, and the hostile looters seem to have lived their whole life to no better purpose than to immediately run amuck at the end of the world:  which is unfortunate for them, because when you run into invincible (only flesh wounds allowed) good guys with gadgetry, or in the case of one wanna-be Thor, a large hammer, they tend to get knocked off in droves.  The bad guys either don't have guns, or they are always pointing the wrong way, at the wrong time.  It sort of reminds me of the old Rat Patrol , or A-team TV shows.  50 to 1 odd are insufficient.

The author (through the movie producer who builds the compound) takes pains to include people of many different races and nationality.  The groups is run as an extended, Spartan-like, family.  Spirituality, although not necessarily Christian spirituality, is not ignored.  In the form of young Norwegian-American, the wanna-be Thor noted above, who worships the Nordic (German) Gods, it gets just a little over the top when he is equipped with a rubberized scuba-like suit, and a thunderbolt throwing/electro-blasting hammer.  It is the return of Mjolner: Thor's hammer

As an aside, since I spend my working hours involved in electrical matters, life being stranger than fiction, a high voltage (80,000 volt see video) hammer has been done. Since Tasers knock people by conducting their electricity through electrical wires conducted through a (projected) prod, it is not surprising thing that you can't really shoot lighting bolts very well with a handheld device.  Conductors make life much simpler, and without the amperage (or more specifically the watts, or volt-amps) to back up your high voltage, you are mostly left using the magnetic field to agitate fluorescent bulbs to turn on.  Lightning bolt weapons aren't very workable.

The action is highly heroic, but interesting.  The heroes occasionally come up with entertaining ways to save the situation, and are not a bunch of jerks. You do get to know some sense of  their personalities.  Even when a typical red shirt throw away character bites the dust, you feel a little bad for him.

I wouldn't say I love the novel.  A little too much weird science thrown into the mix to justify the weird science that was more acceptable to the 1980s genre. But as pure action adventure, it is pretty good. Oddly enough, for all the heroics, and weird science, the author does make some reasonable points about survival in war, and difficult times in general.  To some extent our Thor-wanna be is dangerous because he doesn't hesitate in killing situations, not because he has a cool hammer.  He is acting when others are thinking.  Of course the cool hammer doesn't hurt.

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.

For realism, I can almost copy verbatim what I wrote for the 1980s PA-novel Outrider: it is low for a non-fantastical novel.  There are no elves, not too much in the way of bizarre mutants, and the only telepathy is low key enough that it could be Bonner's Carpenters imagination.  With just a little more attention to realistic survival details, the half-point goes the other way, and I will call it a 3.

Ditto for Readability:  "The plot, sparse as it is, is coherent.  There is not a lot to puzzle through.  The novel is obviously the start of a series, ...but ... it is works reasonably well as a standalone adventure".  In this case, the book is structured as a page turner, so it is a 7.


PioneerPreppy said...

I seem to vaguely remember that series. Hmmmmm.

russell1200 said...

Pioneer: I have seen a few vague references to it here and there. It didn't have the huge run that some did though. I don't remember at all how I came across it.

James M Dakin said...

Russell, just a stray thought. Whenever I need to rest my brain from Really Wise Ponderings, I like to read the crap on Kindle PA books. Is your latest bout of crappy 80's pulp PA fiction the same thing? We all ate them up, junk food delicious.

russell1200 said...

James: The 80s stuff was more likely to be like Road Warriors, and more like to have odd mutants and such. Likely both groups tend toward the ridiculous, with the occasional surprise gem.

So I think the answer to your question is sort of yes, sort of no. If you are looking for faster passing, go with the pulps, if you want a little more originality, go with the modern. After all, I don't think the pulps ever game up with the gay heroic hairdresser dying in arms of the heroic hetro protagonist.