Bobby Akart’s new natural EMP-driven books “The Blackout Series” starts out so good, and even original, the initial books of the series could be consider a must for any survival fiction library. Unfortunately, by the time readers get to book three, they will have stumbled into the same old formulaic apocalyptic storytelling that traps so many writers.
To begin with, EMP stories are reaching the point of saturation, so to find one that is remotely original is like finding a needle in the haystack. This is not to say that a lot of great writers aren’t composing compelling and must-read EMP novels, it’s just that there are only so many variations of the tale.
That said, when we found a book dedicated to the idea that families (and civilizations) could see a worldwide, long-term grid down apocalypse coming and make one of two choices – ignore the threat, or learn to prep and survive – we were intrigued. And from page one, “36 Hours” fits the bill and then some.
Accidental Prepping Under Pressure
Here’s what seems unique about “36 Hours”: the main characters know the life-changing blackout is coming, and the story doesn’t revolve around a mythological journey by our heroes trying to get home. Also, like most U.S. citizens, the characters are not military veterans.
In this story, the stay-at-home wife, Madison Ryman, and her teenage daughter, Alex, are typical suburbanites. The Nashville family barely knows what’s in the news beyond the headlines, and they are focused on either entertaining guests at their upper middle class home, or all things high school.
But something catches their attention when daughter Alex stumbles on to a SpaceWeather.com-type website and is alerted to an oncoming massive solar storm threatening all of the world’s electronics. Left alone with her mom while dad is away on business, the mother-daughter team have just 36 hours to figure out how to prepare for the end-of-the-world-as-they-know-it event. Meanwhile, husband and father, music executive Colton Ryman, offers little help as he’s negotiating a deal in Dallas.
Luckily, a chance encounter at the local book store helps Madison get a sense of how to prep and what survival gear she needs to quickly invest in.
Of course, what is most intriguing are the developments that make this story ring so true.
For starters, despite the clear evidence of the obvious threat from a historical coronal mass ejection, the news channels could not help but make it a political spectacle instead of reporting the facts and helping the populace. In addition, governmental obfuscation designed to avoid mass panic doesn’t help any one either.
And while some citizens join the Rymans as they start their panic prepping, others are blissfully avoiding the facts staring them in the face. In addition, civilization begins to unravel at the seams even before the solar storm strikes, and the community’s bad actors take advantage of the situation while first responders are overwhelmed.
“36 Hours” provides a fast-paced, engaging, and even must-read accounting of how the accidental/panic preppers race against the clock to get their family ready for the imminent SHTF event. Also, Akart deftly deals with the necessary trip home by Colton Ryman, the family’s father, as he works his way from Dallas to his home in Nashville without letting it take over the story.
Does Colton make it home in time to ride out the solar storm with his family? (Spoiler alert) Indeed he does, with some clever thinking and little luck. Which leads us to the second book of the series.
Book two of Bobby Akart’s “Blackout Series” takes up the story of the Ryman’s husband Colton, wife Madison and daughter Alex as they face the immediate after effects of the massive solar storm that plunges the world into the dark ages.
The Rymans became preppers in the 36 hour lead up to the solar EMP catastrophe, and the family now plans to ride out the storm at home like the rest of their upper middle class neighbors in Nashville.
While Madison Ryman took the lead in getting the family ready as her husband made his way home, Colton now joins the fray. And Colton does so with imagination and grit, even if he is learning as he goes along.
As expected, when TEOTWAWKI strikes the world suddenly changes, the senses sharpen and the reality of all those people you call friends and neighbors take on a new meaning.
What do you do when you realize the people who eat out every night won’t have a restaurant to feed them? What about the elderly retirees who are too sickly or weak to defend themselves? What about the completely self-involved who believe the government will come in to fix everything?
How do you respond when the self-appointed leaders of the neighborhood association decide they want to control how families will care for each other? Will the local progressives demand food from the “rich” neighbors who took the time to prepare while they waited for the government response? Are you a bad neighbor, and selfish, if you decide to you keep your survival food and other gear for your own family?
When your greatest threat isn’t a lack of power or information, but the “well-intentioned” neighbors you’ve lived next to for years, the dynamics of survival and the depravity of man takes on a whole new meaning. For sure, when the neighborhood civic association meetings pose a threat, life may have changed forever.
As the Colton’s deal with the obvious threat to mankind – the sun’s EMP – and the threat by those once considered friends and neighbors, “Zero Hour” shines as a compelling story that is entertaining, thrilling and an instructional piece to any survivalists’ situational analysis.
As the story comes to a close, the Ryman’s situation takes a familiar turn that every prepper thinks long and hard about. The threats from outside the immediate community are growing, and as the city falls apart, should the Rymans strike out for safer space? In this case, should they leave Nashville and head to the countryside where a musician friend has a large and remote estate?
The title of the “Blackout Series” third book – “Turning Point” – is appropriate on many levels, and it’s not all good.
The Rymans have survived the collapse of society that started even before the solar storm destroys the modern world, and they’ve survived the immediate aftermath as their own friends and neighbors succumb to the fear, uncertainty and depravity that comes along with hunger and criminal threats.
Our protagonists have a working car, survival gear and supplies, and have decided to strike out for a safer place to live.
It’s at this point that the series itself takes a turning point to the predictable and formulaic.
“Turning Point” chronicles the journey of the Rymans to find their friend’s estate in the remote Tennessee countryside. Along the way they face perils around every bend. Unfortunately, this story has been told a thousand times before.
Take your pick: gangs, desperate families, and even an element of “The Lord of The Flies” wait for and prey on people like the Rymans. And as our heroes make the harrowing trip, they face all these and more leading up to the last three books of the series.
To be honest, this reviewer was bored by the idea of the series’ last few books. That the Ryman’s journey to safety and then face the “dramatic” standoff with evil political leaders from a local community and then from FEMA has been done before. This not to say Akart didn’t write these books well. He is a gifted writer, and and if you’re new to this genre, by all means go for it. But for this reporter, the formula grew stale enough during “Turning Point” that there was no reason to spend the time or money reliving another version of the same-old, same-old.
If you’re looking for a fresh approach to the EMP thriller, both “36 Hours” and “Zero Hour” present unique and compelling angles to this type of post-apocalyptical survival story, and both are highly recommended. But if you decide to take the journey beyond those books, you do so at your own risk.
“The Blackout Series” is available at Amazon.
[Editors’ Note: Paratus Business News does not have an affiliate relationship with Amazon.]