Review: “Under a Graveyard Sky” by John Ringo


Under a Graveyard Sky (Black Tide Rising, Book 1) by John Ringo. Baen Books. 512 pages.

This book series is a cross-pollination of two disciplines I’ve been reading a lot of: military science fiction and dystopian fiction. Technically, it’s considered horror/sci-fi, but I would probably describe it thusly. The first part is a lot like the first season of The Walking Dead, and the second half, which all takes place on the high seas, is a combination of Fear the Walking Dead, The Poseidon Adventure, and Water World.

And yes, it’s about zombies. Technically, a strain of flu is airborne, with about 20 percent of those getting the flu ending up turning into zombies. Then they start biting people, and 100 percent of those bitten become zombies. The story follows the Smith family. Two brothers are immigrants from Australia to the U.S. with military background down under. One is hired to do security for a New York bank; the other is a history teacher. The one working for the bank is the first to find out about the danger with the flu, and being the prepared preppers that they are, the history professor brother and his wife get their two daughters and flee the city.

Because it’s the first book in a series, Ringo has taken a lot of time building the infrastructure for this story, and there are lot of subplots to keep hold of–at least initially. When one gets to the second part of the book, it becomes more of a straight out, let’s-just-survive type of story, with the history professor brother taking it upon himself to try and rescue as many others on boats as possible who are stranded between New York and Bermuda. Eventually the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard–what’s left of it–gets involved, and it’s a good thing they do, because they end up trying to rescue several hundred emaciated survivors on a cruise ship full of zombies.

What’s one of the most entertaining portions is also one of the most implausible. The 13-year-old daughter Faith turns out to be a cross between Rambo and Laura Croft. As the Navy listens in as she takes on scores of zombies at the same time, they are trying to figure out how they can offer a 13-year-old a commission in the United States Navy, perhaps even as a Navy Seal. It’s unbelievable, but it’s also a lot of fun, and she has wit to go with her skill with a shotgun.

What I do have a major problem with when it comes to John Ringo is a fixation he has with sexualizing underaged girls and then trying to connect them with military men. I saw this in the last series I reviewed, and I see it in this. It’s one thing to talk about a sexy 16, 17 or 18 and have them attractive to someone of their own age, but for the girl to be 13 and attractive to a 25 or 30 year old man gives me the creeps. I don’t know why Ringo does this, but I have problems with it.

That’s the biggest complaint I have with the series. It’s somewhat preposterous, but it’s fun, and once you get past the suspension of disbelief, it’s enjoyable.

I give it three out of five stars.

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