Brace for Impact starts a new trilogy in Tate’s series about a massive EMP pulse. Unlike the prior two trilogies, this takes place in the Atlanta, Georgia area. It also enlarges the scope of the electrical loss from what is initially thought to be a solar-generated EMP-pulse to a potential nuclear attack. I admit, I was somewhat less intrigued by the premise of a separated couple wanting to meet up, because I think stories along those lines are predictable, and the separated family unit dynamic was explored in the first trilogy. Just once can we have members of a family realizing it is sensible to cut ties? (I’ll refrain from commenting on my own family here, lest you think I’m more dysfunctional than I am).
The writing continues to be acceptable, with straightforward language. The beginning has another awkward explano-blurb from a patient in the E.R.:
“Why don’t we have service?” “Because the grid is toast.” She smiled like she was embarrassed. “Explain it to me like I’m five.” The man chuckled. “Think of the power grid like a massive web of electric wires. They run out from hubs, generators, substations, and major stations.”
Next think you know, we’ll be talking about internet tubes. But there is some nice writing to offset it:
“Typing to friends and taking pictures to post online was the new pastime. No one under the age of twenty talked or hung out anymore. They just sat with their necks bent, furiously pecking at their phones like a row of birds.“
Speaking of the tech generation, Tate continues to have some of the same refrains from the prior stories, which is less interesting to me, because there doesn’t seem to have improvement in the subtlety of thought or reaction. For instance, Leah is in the midst of watching a television update and thinks:
“She thought about what the reporter said on TV and how the network cut her feed in the middle of her warning. Did the government know who was responsible? Were they covering it up?”
Because that’s always the reaction in a crisis, right? You wouldn’t suspect local power outage when there have been complete blackouts, or that the network would have been worried about advertising dollars, or any other possible reason–the viewer would go straight to ‘government cover-up’ without any evidence of the character having that world-view. In fact, Leah tends to have a trusting view, so it just seemed to me that it was another authorial interjection over consistent character building.
On that note, Leah and Grant feel very… white bread. Boring. In love, recent house purchase, thinking about a kid, establishing careers, etc., etc. While that could be made into a possible character selling point–how do people that lead a relatively safe, insulated, tech-heavy lifestyle cope with loss of power?–but Leah was the only one that was more than a cookie-cutter shape. Leah is an E.R. nurse, so I admit that I was more interested because of a professional connection there, and the issues of emergency management in healthcare. When Grant finally meets up with Leah’s family, they have a very odd reaction to him that made no sense in context of what the reader is given. It was an awkward, uninformative conversation that paved the way for Grant to basically move on.
Aside: There really isn’t a system in place, you know, for prolonged disaster. All the disaster plans that are shared/practiced with staff are imminent emergency or mass-casualty. In prolonged emergencies to date, response has relied on extra-ordinary dedication from medical staff (somehow, I doubt people who stayed in the NYC hospitals during Hurricane Sandy got adequate overtime).
I was interested in the scenes of Leah and a doctor leaving the hospital, and different reactions to the different things they were seeing. Still, Leah’s reaction didn’t feel entirely genuine. I know E.R. nurses–and worked there for two years–and would say that they are often seriously funny, very smart, and extremely cynical nurses. Especially in cities, they see such crazy things, they hear such truly unbelievable stories (seriously people, unbelievable. Nobody believes you accidentally fell on something and it got stuck in your rectum). Leah feels like a brand-new nurse graduate that is straight out of college and has about as much world experience as a puppy (honestly, they are so sincere, it’s kind of adorable).
At any rate, also interesting reading about her coping on her own. I don’t think she coped well or made sensible decisions given the parameters of what Tate was giving us, but I was curious to see how it would turn out.
Anyway. This ended more on a cliff-hanger than any of the prior stories, and quite honestly, I’m a little less interested in the nuclear doomsday set-up, partially because I believe it feels so unsurvivable, as well as the inevitable political commentary/subjecture that accompanies the situation. Perhaps it is time to be re-invented, but I feel like sci-fi has done a fair justice to the genre since the 1960s. I might get re-interested if the author seems to be bringing in actual sciencey-stuff, such as studies that have came out of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, but on the whole, this didn’t spark my trigger the way all the unknowns in the first trilogy did.