Showing posts with label Survivalist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Survivalist. Show all posts

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.

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.