48 Hours: A Novel – a review
I was approached by the PR firm handling this with the chance to interview the author, who’s been a New York Times bestselling author of a series I’m afraid I haven’t run across. I’ve done reviews on a couple of books previously but not intersecting with Pocketables/tech/gadgetry, and this one looked pretty well aligned as most tech goes away due to a solar event.
What intrigued me about the premise was that it deals with a world shortly after a solar event which basically EMP’d the planet and which people have been working at getting the lights turned on again for the past few weeks when another much larger event comes onto the horizon.
Here’s the pitch as presented to me:
In the latest thriller from New York Times bestselling author of One Second After, William R. Forstchen plunges readers into an all-too-real scenario. Two catastrophic solar storms hit the earth in rapid succession. The first peels back earth’s protective magnetosphere, rendering humanity vulnerable to the second explosion. This Coronal Proton Ejection Event (CPE) not only has the power to destroy the world’s electrical infrastructure, it can trigger an Extinction Level Event that could kill every living thing on Earth.
If this CPE hits, global communications will be shut down; hospital emergency generators will be disconnected; the entire internet, media broadcasting, and cell phone systems will be turned off — all in an effort to prevent permanent damage. Will the world emerge from the darkness triumphant, or will mass hysteria lead to the breakdown of society as we know it?
I’m going to state here, this review is going to be slightly spoileriffic. It’s also based off of a pre-proofed advanced reviewer’s copy which considering my mother was a proofreader was kind of hard to stomach (I get thrown out of a story when I start picking spelling and kerning errors out, but that’s me).
The premise is pretty cool and makes you realize exactly how vulnerable we are to an EMP (or properly a solar Coronal Mass Ejection aimed properly that has the same effect).
Along the way you’ll also discover The Springfield Underground, which is a real life giant cheese and hot dog storing cave (along with some other things,) and the science behind the solar events in the book is really pretty interesting.
Unfortunately it feels a bit like the main explanation for the CME/CPE/Eye of Sauron was cut and pasted throughout the novel. Sort of like have you ever been editing something and decided you needed to say something right then and there and you put it in only to discover when printing it out it was already written a couple of pages over? I think they explained it in detail maybe four times.
I was yanked out of the story at the second meeting of a scientist with the president in which he explains what he just explained and now the president is extra shocked. I was yanked out of the explanation the first time by the setup. I feel like what’s happening with the sun is rehashed every few pages either by the main characters or in passing conversation.
That being the first CME was like an EMP for the planet, there’s a second one coming, and right behind that is something that if Earth’s magnetosphere wasn’t properly in place could radiate everyone not in a cave filled with Kraft foodstuffs.
The science is interesting, it being explained over and over, not so much. But we’ll move on.
The main character are 1: the descendant of Richard Carrington, who happens to have been a scientist that observed the fist solar CME back in 1859, and 2) a couple one of which works as a security guard for the Underground, and his wife who has some sort of secret weapons manufacturing past that we never get to hear anything about.
We’re not going to talk about 1 – he smokes, he’s a solar scientist, he says the same thing over and over again and basically watches data and has inexplicable recurring access to the president who uses him as a sounding board. The president talks about trying to find 10 honest men quite a bit. The end.
The security guard is a vet who was wounded and cycled out. The wife as far as I can gather from the next to no backstory makes specialized weapons that peel children like grapes. No, there’s nothing that says that, we’re just left to our own imaginations on what her past is that her husband doesn’t know that might explain this one line in which she came back crying.
Her entire unexplained secret past seems to have been invented to get her access to a satellite phone and a direct line to people who would answer her questions about what’s happening with the upcoming second horror show event. She also needs to be able to handle a gun and call the security guard “Bear” quite a bit.
Bear’s military experience was three tours in The ‘Stan. Now, maybe I’m not hip to the lingo they’ve been using lately, but I’ve never heard it called that, just was off as was everything that happens surrounding the military coming into the cave of Kraft. They come to scout and mostly leave. Uhhh, no.
The military is basically working on a continuity of government plan which involves getting leaders, their families, scientists, those chosen to survive who we’re not entirely sure who they are.
The military (eventually,) and anyone remaining at the Underground decide the survivors are probably just politicians and cronies and better to let them all die than into the Underground’s shelter.
No, really. Military was given orders to escort some people in, everyone is pretty easily convinced it’s just political slime getting in. There’s no backing or seconding that it’s not perhaps 15 thousand of earth’s best and brightest plus a couple of sleezeballs.
Just a bunch of people saying, screw the government and anything they come up with. Oh, there’s nothing to say that all the people on the way per the Continuity of Government plan weren’t all terrible people, but this gets decided by a security guard and his secret op wife who decide they’re going to decide who gets in.
Oh yeah, Springfield, MO, everyone knows everyone evidently. There’s that also.
The protagonists set up the Underground as a caved-based Noah’s Ark, and separate children and families and place kids and parents right between an armed fight between two small groups of soldiers in vividly described vehicle types.
All the parents, teachers, etc who come somehow feel like cut and pasted characters from the Andy Griffith Show. There’s the two kindly principals everyone knows, there’s the doctor everyone trusts and wouldn’t freak out about getting in, there’s the nevermind.
By the end of the two military groups fighting around a fence completely packed with parents and kids I was more or less pretty much in camp not-security-guard. This is not the camp I was supposed to be in, but I had not enough evidence from the story that the people officially coming were anything but scared families who had skills to survive and maybe a couple of dicks.
This vs. couple who wanted to cram a cave full of kids with no sanitation plans, and no babysitters, no parents to look after them except in rare cases, and very limited time. Now, not saying they were wrong, just their plan got people killed, and what sort of post-potential death flare world were they sending these parentless kids up into?
This is an argument that’s put forth in the book, put forth again in the book, and put forth another time in the book if I remember correctly, and it hammers home just that they’re doing something without much planning.
I don’t really feel anything quite connected for over 100 pages in, then the Kid Ark plan popped out, and I expected to have that backed up with slime balls in government but I got maybe one and a couple of military people who thought orders were meant to be followed regardless of legality. Whole bunch of supposition.
Interesting book. Didn’t hate it, but nothing felt quite right about it. Like you’re talking about the end of the freaking world in a 8×6 room with the president and the next scene is a couple of people at a door or outside a door letting people in or not.
I can see the whole thing set as a stage show in two or three rooms. When mass events happen the text turns to italics and we move into some narrative generalization about how some did this, some did that, most clung to their families, some others did this, and some, once again after doing that, went to their families or loved ones.
The president gets into the same fight three times with one of his staff before finally firing them unexpectedly, removing their survivor card, and kicking them out. Fight which was finished, or should have been done right at the first fight. Like we get it from intro 1, he’s a slimeball and needed to go.
I don’t know how to express how utterly ticked off I was with how all the characters resolve near the end, but it was the sort easy end that wasn’t needed.
You can grab 48 Hours: A Novel over at Amazon if you want. Good premise, needs some work in my opinion, but that’s just my opinion man. Everyone’s a critic.