Hard Magic kicks off the Grimnoir Chronicles which turns out to be a difficult series to categorize. It takes elements of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Steampunk, and Alternate History and mashes them all into a noir style story worthy of a graphic novel. None of that really sounds like my kind of thing but I found this book compelling right from the start. Set in the 1930s, this alternate history has 1% of the population with some kind of magical ability, and the strongest of them are known as Actives. The World War is over, alcohol is still illegal in the US, and Jake Sullivan is down on his luck just trying to get out the hole he finds himself in. A former war hero and ex-con, Jake just has one more job to do for the government before his debt to society is paid and then he can go on with his life as a private investigator. Jake is also a Heavy, a powerful Active capable of manipulating gravity, so it is unlikely that the US government is just going to let him walk away when this job is over...
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?
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.
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.
This is my third post-apocalyptic series from Nicholas Sansbury Smith and unlike Hell Divers or the Extinction Cycle this one offers up a much more realistic, and therefore possible, scenario as a backdrop. Similar to One Second After this book shows us the impact of an EMP attack on a small community, which happens to be one of the author's favorite places to visit, Estes Park, Colorado. Trackers also broadens the canvas beyond the small community by detailing the impact the attack has on the US government back in DC by following one of the Senators with some ties back to the Estes Park area. To set it apart from the competition Smith also adds in a murder mystery and a good dose of American Indian folklore which gives it a unique flavor within a crowded genre.
The Extinction Cycle series picks back up as the fight against the Juveniles heads over to Europe. Kryptonite did its job against the Variants but the Juveniles are growing up now and they are much worse. Luckily in the U.S. most of the major cities have been reclaimed and there are now Safe Zones being established where refugees are gathering to start to rebuilding process; however, Europe is a different story. Over there the Juvenile threat was not dealt with when they were still young and now they have grown into something far worse than their US counterparts. That's bad news for everyone.
At the end of the last book, Plum Island was attacked and the Variants captured Dr. Lovato thus putting humanity's last hope in jeopardy. Kate was working on a new Variant killing weapon, Kryptonite, and Plum Island was the key to that weapon being ready on time. Of course Master Sergeant Reed Beckham is not going to stand around while the woman he loves is taken to her death by a bunch of mutants so this book starts off right in the action with a rescue mission that is a race against time.
The number of humans left alive continues to drop at an alarming rate and there isn't much time left. It has only been a few weeks since the apocalypse began and so far all efforts to slow it down have failed. The Variants control all of the major cities and Central Command is being moved to the last remaining Naval strike group as no place on the mainland remains safe. Does that even matter now that it is obvious that the military leadership can't be trusted? Team Ghost knows that they will pay for their actions at the end of the last book and all they can do at this point is to protect Dr Lovato at all costs. She is the only hope there is of coming up with a solution before it is too late and nothing can be allowed to happen to her. At least things can't actually get any worse at this point can they? Actually, yes they can...
Mankind has experienced many ages over the years, but few could have predicted the age that would come next. As the Industrial Age gave way to the Information Age the possibilities for advancement were endless but out of nowhere the Extinction Age was upon us. With the human population falling at an alarming rate humanity has only a handful of weeks remaining before going extinct unless something is done to change the trajectory. With Operation Liberty a failure it is now obvious that the military is not the answer so all eyes return to Dr. Kate Lovato in the hope that science can offer up an answer before it is too late. To make matters worse, resupply from central command is not possible so there may not even be enough food to sustain Kate and her team for the little time that remains.
By the end of book one it was revealed that Dr. Kate Lovato's bio weapon, which she designed to destroy the zombie hordes, was quite effective, but also not effective enough. Doing the math we know that 80% of the human race had turned into flesh craving zombies before her weapon was deployed, and that her weapon killed billions of them, but it also left behind a resistant strain of Variants. The real question is, how many Variants are there and what are they capable of? Do they number in the thousands or the millions? Can this new threat of intelligent, agile Variants be contained or is it actually a bigger problem than the billions of mindless zombies that were wiped out?