With only two stars for the prior book, why did I go on to book three, you wonder? Book two focused on the estranged couple, Leah and Grant, making their way back to their home and presumably, each other. Since one of the aspects of apocalypse I enjoy is focus on survival in situations that are both familiar (your home environment) and strange (no electricity), I was curious to see what happened next. And, to be honest, I needed a low demand book that I could read only in short pieces.
Community. Leah and Grant are in their home and trying to figure out what to do next. Leah’s still healing from a head wound. Right before Leah arrived, Grant had set up a neighborhood meeting, hoping to bring people together for both practical and psychological reasons. Unfortunately, it didn’t go very well. Leah decides to work from the other angle, on a person-by-person basis, offering her medical knowledge to anyone who needs it. Tate does well as showing the various responses people have to crisis, from the outright ostrich, to the fatalist, to those that have faith in authority, to those that challenge everything, because they can.
One of the premises he seems to enjoy operating with is the assumption that people will have to be self-reliant, because ‘authority’ in its many forms will be overwhelmed. Often there is an information vacuum as to why, which adds uncertainty to individual action. In the Southern Grit series, however, one of our protagonists has insider information, a plot point that reappears in this story.
I’d have to say that this story was more enjoyable for me than the second, strictly because the focus has changed from reuniting to community. The various responses and ramifications keep the story moving. However, the last third unravels into an extended, Hollywood-style, extended hostage scenario that became tiresome.
(spoiler) [Even after our protagonists successfully ‘escaped,’ the antagonists returned for revenge. (end spoiler)]
It took the focus back away from the community aspect of survival into a straight-up thriller-style conflict. It also relies on Grant’s military service, a plot point that seems to be reoccurring in Tate’s books. People who are unable or unwilling to use guns to defend themselves will die.
Two facets of the ending pretty much assured that I’m not going to be returning to the Southern Grit series anytime soon. One was the sappy wish-fulfillment feeling of the military dude safely returning to his capable and sexy wife at the end. It felt like a ‘modern’ machismo romance (“separate but equal”). Two, the
(spoiler) [ gratuitous killing of the rest of their group. (end spoiler)]
I think Tate has been trying to make a point in his series about community, but it keeps coming back to one that involves the death of anyone ‘unfit.’
Still, it’s competently written, even if I don’t agree with the thematic choices. A lot of the details seemed very authentic and understandable. I’d give the overall series a 2.5 on my scale, but wouldn’t go so far as to warn apocalypse fans away. It did provide me for food for thought as I’ve been walking my dogs through the neighborhood: how many of these people do I know? Would I trust? Could I (do I) have an interaction with? These are the kinds of questions a good end-of-the world story should raise, so I give Tate credit.