Book two of the Mountain Man series picks up right after book one as Gus recovers from the attack on his home that almost killed him. His poor state of health forces him to venture into the city to find pain killers to aid in his recovery so he makes sure to also grab supplies (mostly booze.) WHen he begins to feel better he decides to take advantage of the winter conditions and fight back against the zombie horde down in the city while the cold and snow hampers their movement. This leads to the advancement of one of the more intriguing threads from the first book - why do the zombie corpses completely disappear within a few days after they are killed for good? When Gus finally uncovers the root cause behind the disappearances, he finds himself facing a new threat even more menacing than the zombies themselves.
R. C. Bray
Augustus "Gus" Berry lives alone in the mountains, that is unless you count Uncle Jack (Daniels) and Captain Morgan who he spends a lot of time with every day. He was a painter, not a soldier, before the world changed but now he wields his Boomstick and baseball bat with the skills of a pro. Gus takes no chances because he knows that it only takes one mistake for the zombies to get the better of you, but winter is coming and needs to venture down into the city to scavenge supplies. He works over the houses because the obvious locations like stores and malls were picked clean long ago, but going through houses can be a bit of a crap shoot. Most don't have much but every now and then you hit a good one. Gus suits up and makes sure that he is prepared for whatever the zombies may throw at him but he isn't quite ready for what other humans might have in store.
What made this series unique at the start was the concept of trying to survive an apocalypse by living in the sky aboard airships. Once the focus moved down to the planet for the last two books there were times when the series felt like it had gone on a bit too long. The same storm related issues continue to arise over and over and the fights with the sirens have gotten old, but each time the story starts to drag a bit it is the characters that save the day. After a slow start to this one I was once again heavily invested in the outcome before it was over due to the characters and my desire to see them succeed. King Xavier has more enemies to fight than ever before, and that is saying something, and that means that humanity's future is as bleak as it has ever been. Certain Cazadores still resist his rule and cause internal strife while even larger external threats are organizing to come and take the Vanguard Islands for themselves. Once more we get a chance to find out if X, aka The Immortal, can live up to his nickname, or if time has finally run out for the dream of living on the surface.
An alien fleet was on the way to take our planet since early in the first book and most of the story thus far has been focused on the struggle between the aliens already here and our attempts to prepare for that bigger invasion. Things have change greatly for the nations of Earth since we became aware of the threat and the geo-political landscape is no longer the same. TASC, the independent entity responsible for preparing our defense and affiliated with no country, has no qualms about using advanced technology to manipulate the countries of the world into supporting its agenda. At first I thought it was nice to see this independent agency running things to avoid the usual in fighting between countries, but since TASC is made up of humans of course it happens anyway. With the moment of the alien arrival now finally here, is the reader rewarded with a payoff worth all the time invested in the series so far?
Now that the threat of a deadly alien virus being dropped from space has been eliminated the focus turns towards finding the remaining alien agents. Eight alien agents arrived in secret during the first book and they all assumed human identities allowing them to seamlessly blend into the population. But after two of those agents decided to fight on the side of humanity the odds are quite different. The double agents were able to take out two others before their betrayal was discovered but so that leaves four remaining but it won't be so simple to deal with the rest. With a massive alien fleet already en route to the Earth we have only ten years left to prepare and the remaining four alien agents will do everything they can to make sure we aren't ready.
I knew this was an alien invasion book going in but it turned out not to be exactly what I was expecting. Aliens coming for our planet is pretty cliché at this point so I was expecting the typical large invasion force to show up and start kicking our asses right from the start; however, that isn't what happened. Instead it turns out that these invaders have studied humanity well enough from afar to know that if they just showed up and attacked us we would likely just nuke the planet to hell in the ensuing war and they would be left with nothing. They want a habitable planet so they need to deal with us first. Hence they launch a covert operation that arrives eleven years ahead of their full fleet, which is already on it's way, with the intent of either disarming our nuclear capability, or if that plans falls through then just wiping us out with a deadly virus. Either way they have the technology to pull it off as long as they remain undetected...
Now that the battle for the metal islands is over, the aftermath of that battle becomes the new focus. The former residents of the Hive now find themselves living on the surface and the ancient prophecy fulfilled isn't the dream life that was expected. X quickly discovers that uniting the Sky People and the Cazadores into a single community is much harder than just letting them kill each other. Neither side truly respects the other and just because X is weary of killing it doesn't mean everyone else is. X's attempt to form a new combined society in the metal islands could lead to a brighter future, but it is far more likely to just result in the extinction of the human race...
Clay's group of survivors is a dysfunctional bunch for sure, yet they keep everyone alive and they continually grow in number. Clay rules through intimidation and he is not afraid to kill his own people to make a point, yet he is reasonable when compared to some other members of his leadership group. The most unstable of that bunch, Ronny, is far worse than Clay and has been pushing for the group to move to Jackson for quite a while now. Ronny claims to have knowledge of farms and a stable food supply in Jackson, but of course his real motivation is his desire to get revenge against Sergeant Gibbs for the ass kicking he received in the gunfight back in book two. When Ronny finally manipulates things to convince Clay to move everyone north, they arrive in Jackson only to find that there is no food in the city. This sets up the final showdown between Clay's well armed group of scavengers and the members of the Jackson Commune, a much smaller group of people with barely enough food for themselves.
Commune Book 2 ended in a brutal gunfight and now it is time to find out the repercussions of that fight. Two new groups of survivors are now in the mix, one of them from that aforementioned gunfight, and both groups plan to do what it takes to ensure the survival of their people. On display are 3 completely unique approaches to re-establishing civilization and it is inevitable that these different philosophies clash with each other. Unfortunately for Jake and company, the Jackson Commune is the smallest of the three groups by a large margin and there is strength in numbers. When things get tight even friends can become foes and supplies are drying up everywhere.
Book 2 of the Commune series starts off with a warning up front about strong language and a new character that is the source of that language, Sergeant Gibbs. Gibbs is a former marine that brings a whole new element to this series with his personality and his skill set. The foul mouth marine finds himself shepherding around a rag tag collection of survivors and quickly discovering that his willingness to protect these people in the apocalypse is a heavy burden to shoulder. Things go from bad to worse for this new group of survivors until they meet up with Jake and this is when things get real difficult. Winter is approaching in Wyoming and there is not enough food to go around for a bunch of new people, so Jake and Amanda must decide if it it is worth sacrificing their humanity in order to survive...