After a nuclear strike ravages the world, suburbanites in northeast Ohio struggle in a harsh new environment of subsistence-survival and murderous gangs—unaware that an alien spaceship is en route.
Author Wood (Trash, 2018, etc.) begins his sci-fi pentalogy with a narrative that is unequally split between pulpy post-apocalyptic action-survival and alien first-contact. In the near future, Islamist fanatics in Tadzhikistan launch an all-out nuclear strike using high-yield weapons and electromagnetic pulse bombs bought from Russia and China (the terrorists have no compunction about firing the warheads right back at Russia and China). All global communications cease, and most major world cities are atomized, though the worst of the thermonuclear holocaust spares much of the American Midwest. Still, with food shipments, goods, and government authority all but extinct, civilization quickly degrades into gang looting and barbarism. Just to the west of Cleveland, Taylor MacPherson is a mild-mannered engineer, reluctantly thrust into a role of local protector and leader of his community when area biker gangs and lowlifes start raping and pillaging. Successfully beating back marauders with improvised weapons and barricades, Taylor and his fellow suburbanites begin the task of restarting organized society, with currency, taxes, and courts. Meanwhile, however, in deep space, a bizarre, egg-laying hermaphrodite species called the Qu’uda have just detected their first transmissions from Earth (which they call Kota). The possibly of a habitable planet—strategically important now that the Qu’uda are in a state of hostilities with another space-going race—sparks a long-distance expedition to the Kota system. Wood tells his prepper yarn in effective, get-the-job-done prose reminiscent of Alistair MacLean. Sympathy is generated for the hero and his cohorts, and Taylor is a regular-fellow type surprised by how quickly he accommodates violence and survivalist pragmatism when he must. As thinly shaded as the ET stuff is in this kickoff, the question of whether the Qu’uda will turn out friend or foe here makes for a tantalizing one in the view of the saga. Northeast Ohio readers and armchair Cleveland tourists (if any) will be interested in the ways Wood works the geography of that much-besmirched city into the plotline.
Nuclear holocaust, savagery, and space aliens converge on Cleveland in a competent start to a five-part series.