The Black Tide Rising Series continues in John Ringo’s third entry, Islands of Rage and Hope. Continuing the tale of the epic family that is Wolf Squadron, Ringo opens up the story to other parts of the world. The story unmistakably gives the zombie apocalypse military lifestyle, making the reader occasionally forget the state of the world. Even so, Ringo brings to us a tale which sucks the reader in.
With the world consumed by a devastating plague that drives humans violently insane, what was once a band of desperate survivors bobbing on a dark Atlantic ocean has now become Wolf Squadron, the only hope for the salvation of the human race. Banding together with what remains of the U.S. Navy, Wolf Squadron, and its leader Steve Smith, not only plans to survive—he plans to retake the mainland from the infected, starting with North America.
The next step: produce a vaccine. But for do that, Wolf Squadron forces led by Smith’s terrifyingly precocious daughters Sophia and Faith must venture into a sea of the infected to obtain and secure the needed materials. And if some of the rescued survivors turn out to be more than they seem, Smith just might be able to pull off his plan.
Once more, exhausted and redlining Wolf Squadron forces must throw themselves into battle, scouring the islands of the Atlantic for civilization’s last hope.
It’s clear to me as the series progresses, that this is not your average post apocalyptic story. While I can list a host of reasons why not, the biggest reason is most evident in Islands of Rage and Hope. There is no anarchy, there is no rebelling. Instead, Ringo’s reality is entirely militant, where you either choose to adapt to military lifestyle or you’re left to your own devices with limited means of survival. This helps underline concepts of surviving vs thriving and makes you question how you could adapt to the strict lifestyle. While I like this departure from the average, the storyline can oftentimes be bogged down by protocols and terminology. Reader be warned, if you’re not up on military slang, you’ll be doing some Google-ing. Luckily, this wasn’t an issue for me so I was able to enjoy the story unimpeded. That being said, I can imagine the do or die mentality mixed with military life may turn many a reader off.
I found the large series cast to be Ringo’s disadvantage. The reader doesn’t have time to get emotionally invested or interested in any characters other than the two sisters of Wolf Squadron. Unfortunately, we spend a good deal of the book learning about characters we don’t care about and only have glimmers of established people. Ringo tried to implement an inventive recap in the form of a film which recorded the history of the flotilla and world at large. This felt like a good concept that was a bit too little too late. In other words, it only reminded me that I cared a hell of a lot more about the established characters and had no means of finding out how their characters were progressing.
One of the real downsides in Islands of Rage and Hope is the inconsistency in the probable and improbable. This imbalance has the realistic boring details flooding the narrative alongside the improbability of the exaggerated pregnancy rate. Both of these serve to make the story feel convoluted. This was incredibly distracting to me as a reader. I kept wondering why military details were entirely en point but Ringo didn’t figure in post menopausal, infertile, or IUD using women into his female survivors. It felt as if the world was not fully realized and had some convenient holes to unnecessarily drive the story forward.
Though an easy read, pacing was certainly an issue for Ringo. Some of the best scenes are cut short to focus on the mundane. Conversations are even more prevalent in Islands of Rage and Hope than they were in its predecessors. While these conversations hold some great moments, my overall feeling was that too much time was spent talking about action than action actually happened. For a scenario with zombies abound, it was a bit disappointing to see.
Ultimately, Ringo is great at giving us moments which seem fictional yet realistic, moments which could only happen in a zombie apocalypse. These moments were definitely my favorite, such as Ringo introducing celebrities into the plot. There’s even a bit about a spacecraft which is pretty neat. These moments were worth reading the entire book for me. That being said, I imagine that you have to be invested in the plot which has happened prior to this installment. It is a true series, with very little of a standalone story in each book. If you’ve been a fan of the series, this is the book for you.