Pros: Decently interesting
Cons: The whole bad-guy plan is topsy-turvy
Rating: 2 out of 5
Roger Hayden’s portion of American Quarantine- Super Boxset involves dirty bombs. Well, sort of.
Jim Farr is a contractor for the Navy, and he and his friend Coyle Wain happen to be present when dirty bombs explode on base. After doing what they can to help, they both leave in a hurry. Jim convinces Coyle to come with him–Jim is, in fact, a prepper, and feels he’s well-prepared. Naturally, things can never be that easy…
I’m having so much fun exploring prepper fiction and looking at what patterns emerge. (For those unfamiliar, a ‘prepper’ is a survivalist prepping (preparing) for the downfall of society, collecting food and other supplies he expects to need.) One is that the prepper always ends up taking on one or more friends who didn’t prep, thus saving their lives and also introducing the problem that now the prepper’s supplies will only last half as long as planned (at most). Another is that shortly after the book starts something will destroy those careful preparations so that the prepper and friends have to go on the move. (Of course, that’s just kind of necessary in order to move the plot along.) Radioactive, Hayden’s contribution to this book set, adheres to that plot structure.
Jim ends up hunting down the bad guys with the help of some military folks (he used to be military himself). The General–like seemingly every fictional General–loves cigars. (Yeah, there are some cliches in here.) Despite the ‘Radioactive’ name, there are no more dirty bombs to worry about. The bad guys make the jump to chemical warfare. They take Jim’s family (sister and niece) hostage in order to kick things up a notch. There are plenty of fights, gunfire, etc. in order to quicken the pace toward the end. I do have to give Hayden points for his pacing.
There are some odd inconsistencies or plot holes here and there. For instance, there’s a woman who’s all chained up in a cell, and then in another scene someone opens the door for her and she runs out completely unimpeded. There aren’t nearly as many errors as in part one of this book (James Hunt’s contribution), so that’s a nice improvement. Unless you consider the entire bad guy plan to be a plot hole, which I kind of do, as you can see in the spoiler warning part of things, below. I need to get into the bad guys’ motivations, which is something that comes up later in the book, but I’m not giving away other sorts of plot twists/events.
At first, I had a lot of trouble believing that dirty bombs wouldn’t cause radiation sickness. Luckily I complained about that on Facebook, so my friendly neighborhood nuclear engineer* set me straight and gave me a tutorial. Now I understand that the purpose of setting off dirty bombs on a military base would probably be to deprive the military of access to an asset, and that the radiation really isn’t going to be doing quick damage. I think there should have been at least a one-line explanation as to what the asset was and why it was so important–as well as a line about how the radioactivity works. That explanation would have contributed so much to the willing suspension of disbelief. (Also, it’s a little weird that the radiation is such a small part of the plot given that the title of this story is “Radioactive”.)
However, I then chatted with my friendly neighborhood person-with-political-process-experience* about the rest of the bad guys’ plot. The explanation for the bad guys’ setting off the dirty bombs (to be followed by nerve gas meant for a different base) was to cripple the military so that the bad guys–who are a couple of businessmen–could use their political connections to pass a bunch of laws that would leave the newly rebuilt military in the hands of the bad guys. First, it would probably be better for them to do this the other way around: just use their political cronies to pass laws on their behalf from the get-go. Second, their time scale is all wrong. The strikes against the military are immediate and short-term, while it takes some time to get laws passed. Third, since ambition plays a large role in this, why not just go the Trump route? Fourth, if you don’t want to be the President, just go spend a lot of money to get your favorite Senator in your pocket, then bankroll his bid for President and get him elected as your puppet. These methods have the advantage of being entirely legal, thus saving the bad guys from the ex-military prepper who would otherwise crush their plans.
The dirty bomb could have been a good move on our bad guys’ part, but needed just that one brief explanation to sell it to the reader. And the political details should have obviated the need for the military attacks in the first place. There are also any number of political ploys they could have made that would have worked out much better for them and made more sense.
*Any errors in my details are my errors, not those of the people who were kind enough to help me out.