Showing posts with label Jerry Ahern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jerry Ahern. Show all posts

Friday, July 2, 2021

The Survivalist #03 - The Quest

Jerry Ahern's The Survivalist is one of the most popular post-apocalyptic titles of the 1980s. The literary series lasted between 1981 and 1991, totaling 29 volumes. In 2013, the series began new installments authored by Bob Anderson and Sharon Ahern. After reading the first two volumes, I like the character of John Rourke a lot. I'm compelled to learn more about his journey through Soviet-occupied America. This third novel, The Quest, was published by Zebra in 1981 and features Rourke in his home state of Georgia. 

There are a number of scenarios that weave together in The Quest. After arriving in Georgia, Rourke leaves Rubinstein at his survival retreat as he explores the area in search of Sarah and the children. After a brief skirmish, Rourke receives a proposal from a former fellow soldier named Bradley. He asks Rourke if he is willing to help find a NASA scientist. In exchange, Bradley will send a correspondence through the resistance network inquiring where Sarah is.

During this time, KGB commander Vladmir Karamatsov visits his wife Natalia in Chicago. In the series second installment, a friendship was formed between Natalia and Rourke. Karamatsov knows this and starts physically and verbally abusing Natalia. In her defense, she injures Karamatsov and runs away from the house. Later, Natalia's father, General Ishmael Varakov, learns of Karamatsov's attack. Varakov wants to get in touch with Rourke, an enemy of the state, to kill Karamatsov. His reward will be complete liberty to him and his family.

By all accounts, Rourke is an extremely busy character in The Quest. By assisting Bradley, Rourke becomes involved in a local resistance operation that eventually loses. Through his exchange with Varakov, the last exciting chapters of the book relate Rourke's mission to kill Varakov.

This series installment is important because it introduces the Eden Project storyline. This will become a major consideration in the series in the future. The involvement of NASA before the nuclear attack, the ultimate goal of the project and its end result constitute a large part of the future narrative. But for now, The Survivalist is a lot of fun and this is just another great chapter in the long storyline. I would recommend you read them in numerical order.

Buy a copy of this book HERE 

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

The Survivalist #01 - Total War

Paperback Warrior has covered a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction paperbacks of the 1980s. Series installments in the 'Deathlands', 'Out of the Ashes', 'The Last Ranger', 'Outrider' and 'Wasteworld' to name a few. One of the longest running post-apocalyptic series was 'The Survivalist' by Jerry Ahern and his wife Sharon. It was originally published by Zebra from 1981-1993 and consisted of twenty-nine total books. In a 2010 interview with Survival Weekly, Jerry Ahern described the series as one long soap opera, a giant novel of around two million words. Since Jerry's death in 2012, Sharon has collaborated with mystery-thriller author Bob Anderson to write and publish an additional seven novels between 2013-2019. The entire series has been made available at an affordable digital price.

The series debut, 'Total War', introduces readers to John Rourke, his wife Sarah and their two children. As a former medical student, Rourke dropped out of college and joined the military. As a career soldier, Rourke later joined the CIA in their Counter Terrorism division. Now, Rourke spends his time training survival and fighting techniques globally. In the book's opening act, John departs the family's Georgia home on a business trip to Canada. It's during this time that WWIII takes place.

The book's first half is a slow-burn with a dozen characters, including the U.S. President, positioning pawns to defend Pakistan from the Soviet Union. During the increased tension, U.S. and Soviet subs come to blows and the chain reaction has 60% of America dead. The U.S. President's delay on launching nuclear missiles left most of the American military defeated but still destroying 40% of the Soviet Union's population and devastating their industrial complexes.

Once the elaborate, and plodding, chess match is over, 'Total War' shifts into the traditional post-apocalyptic formula. With John aboard a passenger jet, the pilots become blinded and John is forced down in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Across the country, Sarah and the kids are dealing with looters and marauders who quickly attack their residence. After a number of skirmishes and fighting, John and an unlikely ally face an army of savage bikers. Faced with insurmountable odds, John fights for the opportunity to gain enough supplies and fuel to start the long journey back to Georgia to locate his family.

Doomsday series titles such as 'Phoenix', 'Roadblaster', 'Swampmaster', 'Outrider' and 'The Last Ranger' all have familiar threads – brutal motorcyle gangs and an obligatory quest for the protagonist to find a loved one. This mono-myth is a common one and is often placed in extreme scenarios like nuclear war and zombie outbreaks. In the case of the 'Survivalist' debut, the familiar formula actually works quite well. I read the book in one sitting and was extremely pleased that the Ahern shifted the novel's premise from political power plays to a rugged, hardened action story complete with characters that were engaging. While the tale is well-told, the storytelling technique was outstanding if you simply suspend disbelief.

While I've been critical of Ahern’s other work (I'm pointing at you 'Track'), I'm glad I was able to find enjoyment with this series. I'm looking forward to reading more installments and encourage you to seek out these affordable digital reprints. If you love panic and hysteria, you'll find this is a real treat. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, January 20, 2020

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 27

Paperback Warrior Podcast Episode 27 showcases a feature on the work of Jerry Ahern, including a review of “Survivalist #1: Total War.” We also evaluate the latest installment in Max Allan Collins’ Quarry series entitled “Killing Quarry.” Check out the episode wherever fine podcasts or stream below. Directly download the episode HERE. Listen to "Episode 27: Jerry Ahern" on Spreaker.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Track #01 - The Ninety-Nine

Gold Eagle originally had the idea for 'Track' as 'Hunter', which would have made more sense overall. At the time NBC had the 'Hunter' name branded for television, thus 'Track' is given as this series name. It had a 13-book run from 1984-1986 and had a mythology of protagonist Dan Track “tracking” down 99 stolen nukes. 

According to the “Brian Drake at Large!” blog, and comments Drake made at Trash Menace, Ahern had less than favorable opinions of the Track series. According to Drake, Ahern had publishing constraints and disliked the series' title. Perhaps his lack of enthusiasm is the driving force behind the debut's failure. “The Nintey-Nine”, the series opener, is a lethargic read that left me wishing the book length was the standard 180-pages instead of 220. It was a bear to get through. 

Dan Track is a retired Army Major and former member of the branch's Criminal Investigation Division (CID). The beginning of the book has Track undercover and under covers with arms dealer Desiree Goth. After investigating her robbery of Wiesbaden arsenal, Track decides to break cover and detain her. Unfortunately, Goth and enforcer Zulu overpower Track and the prologue's closing pages has Track fighting drug runners in a North African desert. 

Early chapters introduce us to series villain Johannes Krieger and his liberation of terrorist bomber Klaus Gurnheim. Krieger's “super power” is that he can alter his appearance to look like anyone. This Nazi sympathizer even becomes a woman in one ridiculous scene where he recruits a pilot at a gay bar. Krieger has the plans to capture 99 nuclear warheads from a military installation...because anyone can do this with a little planning, right? 

Track teams with a global insurance underwriter, Sir Abner Chesterton, and his truck-driving nephew George to stop Krieger. So, what's so bad about the veteran good guy facing the mad bomber? The fact of the matter is that it's so utterly ridiculous that it's hard to even throw out logic to enjoy simple 80s fun. In one scene we learn that an IRA terrorist has captured the top floors of a department store. They have threatened to blow up the building if their demands aren't met. Intelligence, led by a Sir Edward Hall, advises that the terrorist has 80 people AND...there's a girl in a wheelchair. It's this sort of nonsense that is maddening. As if terrorists planning on bombing a building filled with Americans isn't enough to warrant Track's attention, the author has to add a handicapped child into the equation to really heighten the sense of urgency. Why?

The ridiculous notion that Krieger can walk into a military installation and force a General to hand over nuclear warheads is just too easy. To dumb down the reading even more...NO ONE but Track, George, Chesteron and an assemblage of 10,000 black mobsters even know the warheads are missing! The finale has Track saving the city of Chicago by stopping a train but my brain checked out with 40-pages left. It was truly an exercise of internal fortitude to get through this much nonsense. Don't track 'Track'. Just leave this series alone in the wild.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Defender #01 - The Battle Begins

Jerry Ahern penned a number of action-adventure series' including 'Track', 'Takers' and the post-apocalyptic 'The Survivalist' run. 'The Defender' ran 12 volumes from 1982-1990. Some readers had complained about a right-wing bias in this debut, “The Battle Begins”, so I was looking for one but never really found it. I had no problem with the premise of this book (the co-hero is a black guy, by the way), since heavily-armed vigilante crime-fighting is pretty much what men's action-adventure fiction is all about.

In this one, Soviet agents use American street gangs to slowly strangle lawful authority in America, gradually taking over the country with shock massacres and terrorist attacks. Military veterans and other law-and-order devotees band together to resist, even though the law sees them as armed criminals who are just as dangerous as the terrorists! There’s plenty of dramatic potential here, but somehow it never really worked for me (although the book does conclude with a pretty good action sequence, a counter-attack at a nuclear reactor). It’s not the fault of the plot or the characters. I’m not sure Ahern’s style is well-suited for what should be a breathless, fast-paced action tale. Maybe he’s just laying a lot of ground work for future installments of this saga. I hope so. The book isn’t bad. But I wasn’t as engaged in it as I wanted to be. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Survivalist #02 - The Nightmare Begins

Jerry Ahern’s post-apocalyptic series 'The Survivalist' showed promise in its debut novel, “TOTAL WAR”. Early on in the book, nuclear war breaks out between the Soviet Union and the United States. I won’t give away which side wins; let’s just say we finish in the top two.

Our hero is John Rourke, a trained physician and former CIA agent. A massive nuclear explosion hits while he’s traveling across the country on a commercial flight, and the glare of the blast blinds both of the pilots. Rourke steps up and manages to land the plane by himself somewhere in the New Mexico desert, and the rest of the book is all about protecting the passengers, scavenging the area for guns, and finally heading east in hopes of finding his family back home in Georgia. Near the start of that journey, he and a friend are confronted by a huge motorcycle gang, and in a memorable if unlikely finale, our heroes blow away every last biker.

The second book, “THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS”, is similarly packed with adventure. Rourke has reached Texas, and will have to deal with radiation poisoning, armed paramilitary squads, an even bigger contingent of heavily-armed outlaws, and other perils. Meanwhile, his wife and small children are facing some of the same problems back home, and if anything the drama is even more effective on that front. The book ends on a strong and surprisingly poignant note, setting us up for more adventure in the next volume. 

Both books are good. But they’re not great, and they really ought to be. All the ingredients are there for some solid, breathless action/adventure fiction. Somehow, though, the books are interesting without being exciting, and the hero is very capable but he’s lacking in star power.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s something about the author’s style that kept me at arms’ length from the material, I don’t know. I felt the same way about “THE BATTLE BEGINS”, the first book in Ahern’s 'The Defender' series, another post-apocalypse epic whose hero might as well be John Rourke’s twin brother. In both series, the material was just fine but the kettle never really came to a boil.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by other post-apoc series which were written later on, things like 'The Last Ranger' and 'Phoenix', in which there are mutants and cannibals running around and things are much crazier than what we get from Ahern. 

Don’t get me wrong. Overall, these Survivalist books are better than average, and I’ll certainly continue on to the next installment. I have a feeling things will get more... well, nightmarish.

“THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS” is worth your time, and very likely you’ll dig it more than I did, especially if you’re a gun enthusiast and you enjoy reading about the specs of various firearms. Take your reading pleasure to the next level by playing the Survivalist Drinking Game: every time you see the brand name Detonics, take another drink. By the time the book is over, you’ll be so woozy you won’t know whether you’d read it or dreamed it.