Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Darkness After: A Review

Scott B.Williams' The Darkness After is an apocalyptic novel set mostly in rural Mississippi near Hattiesburg, MS.  Two strangers, a teenage boy and a young lady are trying to get back to their loved ones after a solar storm has knocked out all power and electronics in (at least) the western hemisphere. The novel takes place within roughly the same setting as his earlier novel, The Pulse, but the two storylines are completely separate.

Since we have already covered the author's bio earlier, we will just do a quick recap. Scott B. Williams is an outdoorsman writer who has turned to the survivalist/prepping niche.  His recent works include "how-to's" on Bugging Out, and Survivalism.
The novel starts a few days after a relatively brief, but large solar flare has wiped out everyone's electronics and automobiles.  The amount of energy involved in a Solar Flare is much larger than the much ballyhooed EMP strike, so this level of damage is a little more likely, even if the event itself can't be said to be a particularly common one.  The author towards the end of the story, brings up the idea that there may be parts of the world that were not effected by the storm, as they would be on the opposite side of the globe, an odd idea since the big recorded storm of 1859 took place over 5 days and thus would have plenty of time to get both sides of our spinning globe. 
In any case we start of with a very young looking 18 year old trying to get back to Hattiesburg, MS where her one year old daughter and fiancée are at.  A 16 years old boy, who lives somewhat in that direction is trying to get home to protect his younger sister.  The boy is dressed in hunting cameo and has a bow, the girl has a knife.  Both know how to use their weapons, and come pretty close to Navy SEAL like proficiency in combat.   After the boy helps the young lady to survive an attack by three rapists, they join forces and continue along their way. 
Since the world is already a few days into the power outage, the bad guys are out in full force.  If you had to make up a random encounter chart (in a Dungeons & Dragons sort of fashion), all encounters would be hostile in some fashion and half the encounters would be rapists.  It is a little overblown, but makes for a lot of excitement.  Given the kids propensity for traveling along pipeline right of ways, and creek beds, the story likely should just be that they trudge on to where they are going and meet up with their loved ones.  But lets face it, that would be a rather boring book, so we get a number of pitched battles where the bad guys are plausibly amateurish, but the kids are not.
Did I like the book.  Sure, it was fun.  It is not bogged down by excessive survivalist advice, although it does a reasonable job of highlighting some potential situations.  It continues the inland waterway boating theme of the first novel.  Although religion is not a discussed topic, and not much emphasized, the author rather plausibly has at least some folks rallying around their church for mutual support and protection, and there isn't the usual end of the world cultist types floating around.  It is very quick entertaining read.
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.
The novel is set in a modern setting with a realistic concern for supplies, and appropriate skill sets.  If the kids are outliers in their skill sets, and the adventures a little too exciting, you could plausibly just say that they were cursed (in the Chinese sense) to lead interesting lives.  Realism is a seven.
I already noted that its 284 pages is a fast two sitting read.  Designed as a page turner, the book keeps moving, and doesn't really bog down at any point.  Readability is also a seven.

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