Review: EMP Blackout Super Boxset part 1: James Hunt

Pros: Interesting premise
Cons: A handful of odd choices
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

James Hunt’s portion of the EMP Blackout Super Boxset poses the question: what happens when the power goes out? An EMP has been used to wreck any electronics in the US. Not everyone has been prepping and planning for such an event, so chaos ensues when it goes down. Mike and his wife Anne, as well as their kids Kalen and Freddy, have been planning for this sort of thing for years (they even have a family cabin to head off to, and an old jeep with no electronics that will work despite the EMP). At first he and his family stick around in their neighborhood. But when a neighborhood bully convinces everyone else that Mike’s holding out on them all, he gathers his wife, kids, and father and gets ready to head for the hills. Things get a bit crazy in there, and Mike ends up left behind and working with another neighbor to make his way to his family’s cabin.

 

I like Mike as a character throughout these books quite a bit. He’s generous but not a pushover. The more he’s forced to endure for his family, the harder he gets and the less willing he is to let others in. It’s a believable trip from helpful neighbor to survival hardass. At first I wasn’t thrilled with his obnoxious kids, but Kalen goes through some things that make her start to grow up. I do like the fact that we gradually learn that Mike has arthritis–it’s a good reminder that you can prepare all you want, but there will always be factors sneak up on you that you couldn’t have prepared for and might have no cure for.

Rape or attempted rape shows up in multiple places in this series. Since I’ve seen it repeatedly in some recent stories, I must point out that rape or the threat of same is not the only way to create a darkened or messed-up female character. Some authors use rape as a character-shaping tool, almost always using some animalistic, nearly sub-human gross pervert. It’s only one tool in the toolbox–remember to use others, too. In this case it’s particularly obvious as a ploy because the circumstances don’t make it believable.

Why do authors typically show the bad guy chugging water (or other liquid) during a severe shortage while spilling the stuff all over the place? Is it supposed to indicate gluttony and waste in case we can’t figure out for ourselves that the person is a bad guy? I realize I’m being a bit nitpicky here, but it’s just overdone, and not all bad guys are stupid enough to waste water during the apocalypse. Most of the bad guys in this book are one-note ‘evil’ creatures with no redeeming features; it would be nice to see more nuance.

To me this is sort of an average collection. It’s rare that you see a wholesome family of preppers in a book, and that alone keeps things interesting! However, I’d gotten the impression that Mike had some practice hunting, so I wasn’t quite sure why he felt he had to make a deal involving handing over pretty much all of their ammo in return for some unspecified amount of meat from Ken’s hunting. Especially since it seemed pretty obvious that Ken shouldn’t be trusted. (Remember: most of the bad guys are one-note evil.)

I wasn’t thrilled with the bikers-take-over-a-town plot simply because, again–majorly obvious evil. I also thought that Kalen and Mary were smart enough to not go after a biker gang on their own. I guess everyone has their idiot moments.

When our heroes hear on a radio (they’d kept one in a Faraday cage in the cabin–smart!) that Cincinnati is powering back up and is accepting people, it sounds too good to be true. But with all the extra people who ended up accompanying Mike’s family to the cabin, they’re running out of food super-quick. They decide it would be best to go. Naturally there’s a charismatic bad guy livin’ high in a penthouse with luxury who’s in charge of everything. (Yet another obvious eeeevil character.) But they’re all in Cincinnati, they have power and hot showers, and they’re all asked to chip in and work a job. (The moment the powers that be said that they’d allow the kids in only if the interviewer believes they’ll be useful when they turn 16, everyone who wasn’t a bad guy should have realized they were in the wrong place.) There are a couple of other total one-dimensional villains here, just in case we hadn’t yet gotten the idea that all bad guys might as well be Satan himself.

This later part of Hunt’s series had the most holes in it. Mike starts sounding like a retread of Rick Grimes to the point where I started ‘hearing’ Mike’s voice as though he were Rick. Putting Mike and Kalen in the same unit of ‘soldiers’ works out about as poorly as could obviously be expected, but apparently the folks above them are too stupid to figure out that would happen.

At one point one of the folks in Cincinnati says “If you talk to me like that again I’ll have you shot.” Seriously?! What more evidence does anyone need that these people are pure evil?

I should point out that this series of books contains George R.R. Martin levels of character death, so don’t get too attached to anyone.

It’s a decent series, but not a great one. There are just too many little plot holes and inconsistencies that plagued me as I went along.

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