A young woman finds refuge in an underground bunker during a nuclear war and then emerges to live on the ruined Earth in this post-apocalyptic novel.
Tanya Gray is about to start graduate school, but a dire warning arrives in a phone call from her dad. World War III has started, and the world’s nuclear powers have begun annihilating civilization. Tanya flees in her car, and then begs to be taken into an armored military vehicle. It deposits her at the Crystal Temple, an underground shelter that houses about 2,000 survivors, one of six operational structures in the United States. Run by the iron-fisted Gen. Douglas Pierce, the Crystal Temple is a comfortable and organized facility under military rule. Tanya is assigned kitchen and nursing duties, and soon begins seeing a guy named Jack Mitchell. Some thugs try to rape Tanya, but she defends herself against the brutal attack, and the perpetrators are tried and executed in a public hanging. Impressed by Tanya, Pierce gives her an intelligence job, reporting on possible traitors inside the community. While the nuclear winter kills scores of people above ground, a plot against the tyrannical Pierce is brewing, in part because the chief medical officer, Dr. Nathan Herring, is conducting bizarre experiments on survivors. Tanya and Jack are banished to the surface after their involvement in the plot is exposed, and there the effects of radiation sickness soon take hold. People now share the planet with panthers, humans who have evolved, thanks to a glowing tree, into 7-foot-tall creatures that are immune to radiation poisoning. Tanya finds that the panthers may hold the key to saving humanity in the midst of an ongoing world war. Crane’s (Makers of Destiny, 2017, etc.) nuclear holocaust novel is a sweeping political tale, full of both personal and international conflicts, while digging into some deeper questions about society and what it means to be human. Tanya is a savvy, intelligent protagonist with plenty of initiative and enough emotional capacity to love, even in the face of catastrophe. The reassuring and then sinister reality inside the Crystal Temple is characterized in a plausible manner. But while the fantasy elements in the second half of the book are intriguing, they are weakened by some overwriting and the invention of a convenient miracle serum.
An imaginative sci-fi survival tale built around a cautionary, uncompromising war story.