By Thomas Koloniar
HarperCollins Publishing ($7.99)
Reviewed by Sam Waas
End of the World as We Know It (EOTWAWKI), the Big One, the Rapture, the Yellowstone caldera eruption, Dick Cheney or Barack Obama or whomever having their way with you, choose your flavor of disaster. The Apocalypse has many forms, varied as the authors or belief systems that created them. It's been predicted for centuries yet never arrives on schedule, despite Y2K, Rev. Harold Camping's oft-missed End Times, or the upcoming December 2012 Mayan non-event.
A current trend is "preppers," those who are getting ready for impending doom. They range from people sensibly stocking water and food against flood or storm, upscale to dyed-in-the-camouflage crazies who almost invite disaster to strike, then to live on secret farms where they'll grow crops, livestock, and, if they plan on surviving long, trauma surgeons, antibiotics, and vaccines.
But world-class disasters can occur, and have. The K-T meteorite killed off all those cute dinosaurs, other hits have been worse, and there's no guarantee a new bad-boy chunk of rock won't show up and wreck plans for the SEC to dominate collegiate football.
CANNIBAL REIGN deals with such a meteor strike. A huge slab of iron is headed our way. It's predicted to hit North America and essentially wipe out most of the US and Canada, trigger a global winter elsewhere, but not so drastic as to destroy humanity completely, just screw society. Don't mess with Mother Nature.
Impending disaster is a wonderful opportunity for former Green Beret Jack Forrest and his Army buddies to set up their own fiefdom. They purchase a disused Titan missile silo (presumably after Star Trek First Contact wrapped) and retrofit for a year's survival. Jack, er, "invites" only attractive single women to join him and balance out the needs of his colleagues, with a couple extra men tossed in, assuming they're physicians or similar, lawyers need not apply. Such a plan speaks poetry to wannabe tween boys everywhere. Wow, my own harem! And, to be fair to the narrative, not a lot of women accept Jack's generous offer.
Rather than fate play a mammoth joke on seriously surviving Jack by letting the meteorite skip by and leave him sitting in his hideyhole, Old Ironsides predictably slams into the US. Rude behavior is soon the norm, worse even than reality TV shows based in New Jersey. Cannibalistic biker gangs (are there any other kind?) roam the landscape, with local versions of "Road Warrior's" Great Humungus everywhere. Gals are in peril.
Sanity prevails deep in Jack's HQ, of course, where he and his crew await the lessening of polluting rains and expect the baddies to kill each other off. Strangely, Hawaii also survives, colder but okay, and soon implements an egalitarian quasi-socialist paradise, using a clean slate approach. After all, capitalist robber barons were responsible for the meteorite. Exactly how they managed this is glossed over, but they are definitely to blame. Such are the vagaries of apocalyptic fiction, where you can tweak to your heart's delight.
But back to Jack and his team. Food running low and places needed to be, they embark for Hawaii, the one refuge from all this mess. And as with Dorothy and her pals, plenty of perilous adventures await the survivors' pilgrimage.
I admit to being catty here, and should temper my amusement with this novel by verifying CANNIBAL REIGN to be a well written, exciting story, if only a few of the more speculative situations be overlooked. Although the survivor mores are overdrawn such that lead characters are too stoic, the plot is realistic given the cataclysm, technology accurate, and environmental descriptions consistent with meteorite impact theory.
Those who enjoy heroic survivalist scenario stories will like this novel. I will caution that many scenes are vivid and unflinching in depicting sexual and combat brutality. Such descriptions are however not egregious and describe faithfully how such a world would probably unfold.
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