To Sail a Darkling Sea: A credible zombie story

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsTo Sail a Darkling Sea by John Ringo SFF book reviewsTo Sail a Darkling Sea by John Ringo

To Sail a Darkling Sea is the second installment in the BLACK TIDE RISING series.  Ringo continues to tell the story of the Smith family who are the virtual seed of humanity that survives the Zombie apocalypse and starts the fight to save the world from perpetual barbarity.

Trying to re-establish civilization is complex work. For “Commodore” Smith and his family, that becomes increasingly difficult as numbers of people rescued and the implied logistics support begin to increase commensurately.  How do you keep more and more boats running with limited repair parts, limited fuel and even fewer trained people who know how to fix them? With no land area to grow crops or harvest them, how do you feed everyone and keep them healthy when fishing is your primary food source? All of these complexities and the challenges of managing personalities become more and more difficult.

The daughters of Commodore Smith are amazingly complex, talented teen-agers. The responsibilities they are entrusted with are grossly out of proportion to their chronological maturity, but in a time of complete chaos those things don’t always matter. Faith (Shewolf) continues to blossom into a quasi-Amazon warrior princess whose physical prowess and natural talents make her a tactical zombie killing machine without peer. As a combat vet, I’d say that some of the license that Ringo takes pushes well past the point of credibility. Just basic physiology says that he’s well past reality, but its fiction, so if you can take it with a grain of salt it’s not impossible to digest. Sophia (Seawolf) is a borderline genius with a great work ethic and years of training from her parents to fall back on. Her role as the captain of a small vessel is a lot easier to accept. The mental skills and ability to learn on the fly make her a natural fit and when she is supported by trusted adults things are believable. I do object strenuously to Sophia’s abuse and misuse of alcohol, and the incessant almost sexualization of her character is also uncomfortable. I think it’s beyond tacky to have a 15 year old woman naked on her boat with submarines watching her through periscopes. Sorry…. even if that makes sense after a Zombie Apocalypse, I don’t like it being depicted in this story.

As more resources are collected and more qualified combatants are rescued, the opportunity for greater risk and larger targets makes sense. Ringo’s storytelling and world-building really shine when he gets into liberating small coastal towns and establishing organizational structures that support a way forward into a future not continually decimated by Zombies. Taking logical steps forward and developing tools and tactics that liberate people is very interesting stuff.

To Sail a Darkling Sea is a credible second book in the series. I have no problem getting into the world that Ringo is building. It’s easy for me to buy into the process of integrating newly rescued talents into the organization and trying to balance the social requirements of saving humanity against the tendency towards dictatorial rule by the able. What does a group in these dire straits do with the percentage of the rescuees who refuse to work and abide by the rules of the group? How far can you go before you are crossing the line between acting to save others and forcing others to serve your choices? It’s a fine line and I like how Ringo treads it.

Black Tide Rising — (2013- ) Publisher: NEW SF/HORROR SERIES FROM NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLING AUTHOR! A family of survivors who fight back against a zombie plague that has brought down civilization. Zombies are real. And we made them. Are you prepared for the zombie apocalypse? The Smith family is, with the help of a few marines. When an airborne “zombie” plague is released, bringing civilization to a grinding halt, the Smith family, Steven, Stacey, Sophia and Faith, take to the Atlantic to avoid the chaos. The plan is to find a safe haven from the anarchy of infected humanity. What they discover, instead, is a sea composed of the tears of survivors and a passion for bringing hope. For it is up to the Smiths and a small band of Marines to somehow create the refuge that survivors seek in a world of darkness and terror. Now with every continent a holocaust and every ship an abattoir, life is lived beneath a graveyard sky.

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JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years.

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