I kinda wanted to let the last post marinate for a little while because...well, I put a lot of time into these things. And Dan hasn't responded. Or Steve (though he seems to have long ago lost interest in my blathering). But I didn't feel like waiting before sharing the sequel to book I really enjoyed reading, so here it goes -
Eastwood (No Direction Home book two)
No Direction Home book one was such a well-told story that I was anxious to read book two in the series, Eastwood, as soon as I finished book one, even if I was going to be reading it in eBook form (not a preference). The title, Eastwood, refers to the camp established by the splinter group of survivors led by Walter from book one. A good part of the story, but not all of it, follows the activities of the members of this fledgling community - and the new survivors they come into contact with.
Eastwood continues the story of the survivors in book one, introducing a few new characters, some of whom are actual humans while others are horrific animals in human shape. Fortunately, the despicable semi-humans are generally little more than rabid background characters. There are also a few characters from book one who - against all expectations - have essentially become good characters despite all early indications of their darker natures. I can't help but wonder if they will continue to be in the "good" camp, but for now they seem pretty stable.
The story progresses pretty nicely, with a couple of major characters, and a few non-major characters, being killed off - one of whom has a name that I expected to be ironically linked to the better-known character with the same name: Marcus Welby. Sadly, he wasn't linked in any way I could detect, so I'm not sure if that was intentional or not. Here's the action-packed excerpt that brings an end to the just-introduced character of Doc Welby...
As a man who'd seen plenty of combat during the first Gulf War, Granger had figured out pretty quickly which of the men would be any use to him in the heat of battle. He estimated that, out of the seventeen adult men, perhaps eight or nine would show true grit in a firefight. As for the fifteen women, other than for Mary Sadowski, it was hard for him to judge. Granger had never fought alongside women before. At some stage, perhaps sooner rather than later, he knew that might change.
His mind wandered back to the previous evening when Rollins had introduced him to the three new arrivals. Learning their story and briefly studying their demeanors, he reckoned they could be relied on in a tight situation, particularly the Irish couple. Colleen, the petite blonde woman, had a steely look in her eye. As for her husband, though barely intelligible with his thick Dublin brogue, he had the look of someone who had been around the block before, probably several times.
"Ned, where are we going to get supplies?" Marcus asked, breaking him away from his thoughts. "They're getting hard to find now. At the Home Depot in Chat yesterday, just about everything worth taking was gone."
"Don't worry, Bert's given me some places to check out," Granger told him. "After thirty years in construction, he's gotten to know just about every hardware store and builder's yard in the area."
"That's good. Hopefully we'll find everything we need."
They reached Sloans Gap Road. Granger steered the Nissan around a sharp bend. To either side of the road, dense pine forest grew almost all the way up to the asphalt. Straightening out the wheel, he picked up speed again.
Ahead, he spotted movement. Two men crouched on either end of a large sapling that had been dragged across the road. Both held rifles, pointing at the oncoming Nissan.
Granger jammed his foot on the brakes. "Ambush!" he yelled.
Welby immediately grabbed his rifle. He slid the selector switch off safety and poked the barrel out the window as the Nissan came to a stop a hundred yards before the tree.
About to reverse, Granger glanced in his rearview mirror. Behind him, two pickup trucks tore around the corner and screeched to a stop. In the truck bed, Harper and Meyer had seen them too. Squatting on their heels, they raised their rifles, aiming their sights toward the trucks.
Granger peered out through the windscreen, trying to gauge whether he could drive along the side of the road and squeeze past the felled sapling or not. The bandits had positioned it perfectly, though. There wasn't a hope in hell.
A fusillade of gunfire suddenly opened up from behind the tree line where several men had lain in wait. Granger barely had time to react when the front passenger window shattered. Instantly, blood sprayed across the windscreen and Welby keeled face forward onto the dashboard. Horrified, Granger saw that several rounds had caught him in head.
In the load bed, Joe Macey returned fired into the forest in short bursts. Hunkered down below the tailgate, Bob Harper started shooting at the two pickups parked on either side of the road.
There was no hope for Welby. He had died instantaneously. Granger snatched his radio from off the seat divider, then opened his door and jumped out onto the road.
Back at the bend, bandits spilled out of both vehicles, rifles in hand. Taking cover behind the tree line, they opened fire on the exposed Nissan. In the other direction, the men behind the sapling scattered into the forest, getting out of the line of fire from their own men.
Granger crouched behind his door and pulled out a Ruger P95 from his holster. He shouted up to Harper and Meyer in the truck bed. "Bob, Joe, get down here!" Currently, the driver's side of the truck provided the greatest shelter from the gunfire.
He jabbed the Talk button on his radio. "Bravo Two to base. Ambush on Sloans Gap Road!" he screamed into it. "There's at least ten of them. Repeat, ambush on Sloans Gap Road."
The Jonah character doesn't have as much "screen-time" in this book as he did the last, which was a slight disappointment for me. But he's still an ongoing character, so there's room for more Jonah fun in the sequel(s). At some point I wonder if we're going to get a full on George RR Martin scenario going with wholesale slaughter of major players. Only time will tell, I suppose.
As with book one, the story ends with a cliffhanger, Mason - the worst of the worst - is plotting against other book one survivors who are working to honestly establish a life in the post-apocalyptic landscape. It's hard to imagine a more loathsome character.
I only spotted a couple of grammatical errors/typos in the text, which is always nice in any Book (I've read too many that have been very poorly-edited/proofread). I'm really looking forward to the third book in the series which should be available soon. This book has moved to the top of my post-apocalyptic fiction reading list - above S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series, DW Ulsterman's Race Wars series, John Barnes Daybreak series, and even William Forstchen's After series (of these, the After series is probably the most similar to No Direction Home, replacing a super-virus with an EMP attack). Frank Herbert's The White Plague is an even closer comparison to the plotline of No Direction Home and, as I recall, I really enjoyed it as well (I haven't read it in many, many years - so I should probably go find it in the garage and give it another read one of these days).