Monday, September 1, 2014

Event Horizon: A Review

Steven Konkoly's Event Horizon is the second book in the apocalyptic series, The Perseid Collapse. Set in New England, mostly in the back woods of  Maine in this one, it details the near term consequences of a combination of "meteor" strikes and EMP-bursts.

From the blurb:
With Boston collapsing faster than Alex Fletcher predicted, his personal rescue mission deep into the heart of an increasingly unfamiliar city reaches a critical point. Pursued by a ruthless militia group, and forced to navigate a treacherous landscape, he runs a gauntlet of grim decisions and impossible odds to reach perceived safety.
Back home--in rural Maine, a series of lethal coincidences fuels a local militia leader's ghastly strategy to raise a private army, planting the Fletcher's firmly at the intersection of his power play--and the epicenter of his rage
The story is essentially that of Alex Fletcher, and his Marine friends, versus the diabolic militia folk.
The problem is that the story goes through all the tactical and operational details, characters tending to discuss details in depth that have already been related to the reader, and it really is just an excuse for improbable shoot 'em ups.   The Marines set up there machinegun firing points in Harvard so badly that one infiltrator can threaten the entire defensive perimeter.  Yet civilian, Alex Fletcher,  can climb into an armored truck (MTVR), in the parking lot, and from its roof mounted .30 cal. machine gun, sweep all the endangered points on the perimeter.  These defensive positions, don't appear to cover each other, and are all on the "forward" slope, and thus vulnerable to fire from beyond the perimeter. It's not realism, it's an excuse for overblown heroics.  On a side note, the author also seems to be unaware that, as with many large facilities-universities, Harvard has a series of steam tunnels (link), running through its campus, that have the potential to turn there hard edge position into a sieve.

The defense set up in the Fletcher's Maine rural bug-out home is typical prepper book stuff.  That a marine would actually think that it is a good idea to stay inside a stick-built building when fighting a militia of unknown size is bizarre.  The "defenses" are proofed only to carbine/pistol standards. In any case, you can put up all the sandbags you want, but if their .30 cal. machine gun has tracers, its hard to see how you are going to keep the whole thing from burning down over your heads. The affair would likely end with the militia shooting people trying to escape the conflagaration.  But as is typical, the bad guys aren't going to be that competent.  They will be sure to give the defenders plenty of easy shots.

The militia leader is so comically evil that he gets pissed off and shoots something like 10% of his available manpower.  Granted, he has recruited an evil bunch, but why would such an evil bunch cower in fear of him?  Why don't they just shoot him?  I had a hard time not picturing him as Boss Hogg in cameo.
As we alluded to above, ex-marine Fletcher had met up with the Marines in our first novel, and he becomes even more engaged with them this time around.  The novel in some ways is like a reverse of the well known militia-porn novel Patriots, in that it is the good guys are the military folks, and the bad guys are the local folks in old-style cameo.  The battle results are about as lopsided as those in Patriots, and you can pretty well guarantee that the good guys will make all their head, or through-the-corner shots, and the bad guys....  Well the bad guys will just suck: except when they are being dementedly evil, and Boss Hogg is shooting the incompetents.  For a book with preachy-prepper advise, which is in theory intended to be giving serious advise, this is a critical failing.
As I noted in the review of the first part, I cannot recommend the series.  It starts falling apart toward the end of the first novel, and it just gets progressively more ridiculous in the second.  The author may be an ex-Marine, and think it is cool to be fighting alongside his brothers in arms in an apocalyptic scenario. But for most of the reading audience, its not all that exciting.  There are some reasonable points about what modern arms and weaponry are capable of, but they are submerged under all the action-hero tropes.  So, if you like laundry lists of prep gear, and the silly types of combat that are typical of the militia style novels, you will probably be able to get through the repetitive dialog in okay shape.  I think most everyone else would be better off taking a pass.
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.
It is set in the near future.  To the extent that the author is discussing a lot of U.S. Marine military equipment, I guess you can call it realistic.  There is lip service at times to issues of supplies, but the whole novel only ends 96 hours after "the event" so it is a little too early for that to be a huge issue for even the moderately prepared.  Call it a 6.
Readability is mixed.  As noted above, it bogs down in repetitive dialog, and the author goes into overly complex details of the impromptu fortifications: to the point where a more simplified description might actually convey more information.  It isn't a page turner, even the fight scenes move a little slowly as he insists on jumping us around to all the good guys, and many of the bad guys points of view.  We will go with a 4.

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