Neil Gaiman has made a name for himself as a contemporary fantasy author, but unfortunately for me that is a genre that rarely grabs my attention. It seems like it should be right up my alley but very few of my forays into this realm result in an engaging experience. Because this book is a stand alone novel, and also pretty short in length, it seemed like a decent way for me to dip my toe in the water and experience Neil Gaiman with little commitment. Was it worth it?
I remember when I first started reading The Expanse series and how I was surprised that I found it compelling even though human space travel was limited to our own solar system. No warp drives or hyperspace conduits seemed pretty boring at first, but I eventually came around because limiting the scope of the story to our own solar system made it that much more real. Although similarly limited to our solar system, Executor Rising puts aside realism and instead offers up something much farther out there in concept. The Earth is no longer a habitable planet and mankind instead has The Circuit, which is an interdependent ecosystem that uses Solar Arks to transport needed materials between human colonies that are spread across the solar system.
Don't open your eyes. Nobody knows what started it, or why it started, and nobody even knows what the threat actually is. That is because anyone who actually sees it does not survive long enough to tell anyone else. The only guaranteed way to survive outside in Josh Malerman's apocalyptic setting is to be sure that you can't see a single thing. Needless to say, that makes things a little difficult for everyone because you can't stay inside forever...
At 9 years old Jorg experiences a terrible trauma that shapes the rest of his life. As his mother and brother are killed, he is helplessly caught within the thorns of a nearby briar patch unable to help in any way. After the incident, his father (the king) is unwilling to risk war with Count Renar, who is the person behind the murders, and he basically agrees to put the matter aside in exchange for some economic concessions. Jorg can't accept this outcome and this series of events ultimately shapes him into a monster bent on revenge against both Count Renar and his own father. Jorg's mind becomes a very dark place and this book is experienced from inside that mind.
Earlier in the series Jonathan Maberry did an excellent job of coming up with unique threats for each book and finding a way to explain the existence of mythical creatures with "scientific" reasons. This allowed Joe Ledger to exist in a world grounded in modern science and yet battle all kinds of fictional creatures to keep us safe. However, the last book, Dogs of War, re-used a lot of threats from earlier in the series and when this book started with pretty much the exact scene from the start of a prior book I instantly knew I was in for more of the same.
The events of The Storm set this series up for a big finish and this book does not disappoint. The citizens of Estes Park are fighting for their lives and even if they manage to survive things will never go back to the way they were. The same is true for the entire world as Chinese troops are on US soil and Chinese fighter jets are flying overhead. While some welcome the foreign "aid" being offered others view it as a threat and mobilize to push back these unwanted invaders. It all adds up to put the country on the brink of collapsing as war is everywhere and the main characters can no longer prevent it from happening. Now the question is, can they survive it?
Humanity may have survived the Phage War that occurred in the Black Fleet Trilogy but the impact of that conflict is just now starting to be revealed. The factions within the Terran Confederacy no longer desire an overarching government (or unified defense fleet) and just as things start to splinter apart two new alien races arrive on our doorstep. One race offers friendship while the other wants war, yet it isn't obvious which of them is the bigger threat...
A month has now gone by since the EMP attack and life as we knew it in the United States is a thing of the past. Nicholas Sansbury Smith continues to tell a story about relationships and what people will do for those they care about even as the world around them crumbles. This time it is Albert Randall, Secretary Montgomery's bodyguard, who heads out into a lawless world to find his missing sister. This journey exposes us to one of the FEMA survival centers that has been set up and it shows how the remaining government forces are ill equipped to hold back the gangs and domestic terrorists that are rising in power. These same threats are being faced by Estes Park as Chief Colton and Raven do their best to survive and find a way to protect their small town.
Major Bhaajan is a retired soldier working as a P.I. when she returns to the desolate world of her birth. A young nobleman, who in this matriarchal society has lived his entire life in seclusion, has gone missing and the police can't find his trail because he disappeared into the ruins and caves beneath the city. The City of Cries believes the Undercity to be nothing more than a slum but to Bhaajan it's the home she both loves and hates. Locating the missing prince is only the beginning and it's time for an intergalactic empire to realize that their greatest resource is dying from neglect right under their feet.
While the country crumbles around her, newly promoted Secretary of Defense Charlize Montgomery plans to risk her own life in an attempt to save her disabled son Ty; however, before she can figure how she is going to get the job done the new President sends a team of marines to get the job done. Unfortunately those marines are not prepared for the rise of the "Sons of Liberty" who have formed their own army and have taken control of the area in Colorado where Ty was last seen. Meanwhile in nearby Estes Park, the inhabitants are still struggling to find their way forward and deal with life in the aftermath of an EMP attack. Winter is approaching and tempers flare about how best to handle enforcing the law and feeding everyone with an impending food shortage on the horizon.