Book Review – The Blackout by Stephanie Erickson

Book Review – The Blackout by Stephanie Erickson

This book follows two characters, Molly and Gary, who are separated by almost the entire country when the power goes off.  Molly is an English professor while Gary is a pilot jetting around clients in a corporate jet.

After about two days, Molly really started to worry.  None of her neighbors knew anything.  There was no word.  Nothing.  No communication from emergency relief teams.  No inkling that help was on the way.

While Gary wasn’t in the air when the power goes out, he does see the aftermath of the situation at the airport.

I also liked how there was a lot of indecision and denial when the power goes out.  Even though the electronics is toast on the airplane, Gary and his partner are reluctant to leave it because they have clients who they need to fly somewhere.

He came to the conclusion that they needed to move on from the airport before Clint did.  His co-pilot was very duty-oriented and thought they should stay where people knew where they were.  Gary just wanted to get back to his family.  He wasn’t planning on walking the entire way, but he thought maybe they could walk to the closest city that had power.

This book is uplifting in a way – some books in this genre can be so bleak and full of despair.  Molly in particular is a strong character and not the “damsel in distress” that some novels cast the wife as being home alone waiting for her husband to come home and save her from the crisis.

While Molly doesn’t lead the community, she has a strong voice that people listen to.  I did like that she waffled with the thought of infidelity, as so many times the wife is just “so sure” her husband is going to get home, yet the reality would be that most of the husbands wouldn’t.

The thought filled Molly with a sense of dread.  If The Blackout was more widespread, we may have to learn to live with this for an extended period.  Maybe even a few weeks, she thought.  Luckily, their area was used to being without power due to the hurricanes that regularly pummeled the area, so most of the neighborhood wasn’t without food or basic supplies.  However, no one had enough to last over a week.  Well, almost no one.

Jimmy Jean was a nut.  At least everyone in the nighborhood thought so.  A retired military man, he was one of those extremists, telling anyone who would listen what would happen during a catastrophic event.  He was convinced a government attack was inevitable; the only question was when.  He had enough food stores in his basement to last for months, and had even given Molly and Gary a tour once, trying to educate them on the importance of preparedness.  Gary had been annoyed, but Molly thought he was sweet and harmless.

One of my favorite characters in this book is Jimmy Jean, and he is one of my favorite characters in this entire genre, which says a lot of the power of the author’s secondary characters.  Stephanie Erickson has also created a short story / novella with more about Jimmy Jean with more about his backstory than the main novel goes into, called “Jimmy Jean: A Blackout Story“, which can either be read with The Blackout or independently.  I haven’t read this one yet, but I will pick it up at some point, however I can’t imagine it not being great!

Some of the community events hit me as slightly farfetched – such as how the community had enough supplies, even stolen ones, to make a huge wall surrounding the entire community.  I did enjoy how you did see all facets of what would be in any community – lazy people, those who argue against ideas such as safety, etc.

This will be one of those books that will keep you up reading.  I felt the ending was a bit abrupt (similar to how 77 Days in September ended somewhat abruptly as well, but lead into a sequel), I would have loved an extra chapter or two to resolve the story.  However, it is possibly done as a set up for an upcoming sequel, although none has been announced.

Book Review – 77 Days in September by Ray Gorham

Book Review – 77 Days in September by Ray Gorham

This novel opens in a big way – with a EMP striking right as the main character’s plane has taken off.  While many apocalyptic novels talk about plane crashes as a result of an EMP, this was interesting to see the author tackle this scenario first hand.

The story follows Kyle as he struggles to travel 2,000 miles back home to his family, while we also follow his wife Jennifer’s struggle to survive in her community.  Both characters face situations such as flirting with the thought of infidelity when neither of them knows if the other is still alive.

“My fellow citizens,” the broadcast began.  “This is Vice President Brent Hamilton.  On Friday, Sept 2, at approximately 4:08 P.M. Eastern Time, our country was attacked by enemies we have not yet identified.  President Stewart was traveling at the time of the attack and is currently en-route to Washington.  The target of the attack was the continental United States, and by extension, the entire North American continent.  A nuclear missile was detonated approximately three hundred miles above our country.  The result of this detonation was an electrical storm that appears to have crippled our electrical infrastructure.  This type of attack is referred to as an EMP, or Electromagnetic Pulse.”

This is another novel that also teaches the reader how to survive and plan in these types of scenarios.  However the main character seems to be always making the wrong decision – was this a case of the author trying to teach the reader even more by showing how to recover from these really bad decisions?  Maybe, but some of the time I wanted to be like “Kyle, REALLY, you didn’t learn?”  And some of the things would likely be downright dangerous in a real SHTF situation – such as Kyle’s desire to travel on main roads and highways rather than sticking to smaller routes where it would be less likely he would run into unsavory characters.

I did enjoy that part of the story was told through a female character.  So many of the books in this genre (aside from many of the young adult dystopian novels) feature mostly male characters that the story is told through.   I do wish her character was stronger and independent, rather than the damsel in distress role she took most of the time.

Aside from that, it is a very enjoyable and thought-provoking book.  Like One Second After, this will really help people think about prepping and go over survival scenarios in their heads about what they would do in Kyle or Jennifer’s shoes.

Earlier versions of the ebook had numerous grammatical errors and typos, but the book was rereleased in 2014 and presumably was edited.

Book Review – After the Event by T.A. Williams

Book Review – After the Event by T.A. Williams

This book is the first in a series, but I would consider it a novella rather than a full novel.  It is a quick read if you are looking to pick up something short to read.

In a single moment
hundreds of thousands of people died instantly,
every plane fell from the sky
and the world was plunged into darkness.
This became known as The Event.

The main character is Grant,  deadbeat dad whose alcoholism leads him to disappoint his family time and again.  When his wife passes away, he turns to alcohol to take away the pain and leaves his oldest son with the job of looking after his kids.  Then the disaster hits, known as “The Event”,  hinted to be an EMP.

One nice thing about this book is it had some scenes from the perspective of  the kids in the novel, however it primarily focused on their relationship with their dad, and not so much their reaction to the entire situation.   Towards the end, I just wanted to say hasn’t your dad proven himself to you YET?

I did feel that the kid’s reaction to the whole no electricity thing was a bit unrealistic.  They never complained about lack of television, the food situation or really seem to be affected by the disaster in any way shape or form, except for how it meant their relationship with their father evolved.  They literally took it in stride with not even a minor grumble.  I would have liked to have seen even some minor griping about video games or internet or something!

“Alec, where did all the lights go?” Alya asked as she flopped her head back on his lap.

He ran his hand gently through her hair and stared up into the dark night sky.  How did he answer a question in which he didn’t know the answer? Of course he hadn’t really spent much time pondering the question.  The first few days he had wondered but after that his attention had turned to trying to protect his family.

I felt some of the characters could have been fleshed out more, and it would have added a lot to the book.  Two neighbors could have had more detail added so that as a reader you are invested in them more.  As it is, even though they were vital to survival, we never really learned much about them and they both had numerous skills which could have taught the reader more about prepping.

The story did jump around a bit, which I guess should be expected for being novella length.  For example, they are preparing for winter then next chapter we are nearly through winter, without much explanation about how they survived, which I would have really liked to see, other than brief mentions of hunting and fishing.

Overall, worth a read, especially since they are pretty fast and can be read in a few hours.