For Us the Living: Judgment Day

Mr. Peters sent me a review copy of this book when he sent me The Surge.

I’m glad he did.

Review: For Us the Living: Judgment Day, R. A. Peters, 2015.For Us the Living

War has rules, but there’s no Geneva Conventions covering Armageddon.

R. A. Peters’ newest novel is more tightly focused and more overtly science fictional than his Operation Enduring Unity trilogy. In its way, it’s just as topical though.

There are just two viewpoint characters: Peter Dixon, ex-Army medic, Afghan War veteran, and part-time prepper and his wife, Sergeant First Class Danielle Walker, a forward air controller with a Spec-Ops team.

It’s the year “20soon” and the Chinese have landed on the moon.

On a hostage rescue mission in Yemen, Walker’s team loses GPS and radar. Nuclear war? Alien invasion? It’s the start of an odyssey that will have her and her comrades bounce from place to place in the Middle East (Peters throws in a handy map) as they try to figure out what has happened and unify with other American forces.

In Jacksonville Beach, Florida, Dixon dashes from his job as a nurse to pick up his step-daughter Rachel from school. He ignores the power outage at the hospital and the terror alert his co-workers mention, but he can’t ignore the low flying fighter planes nor the submarine launches of ICBMs from nearby US subs.

Peters’ story is tight, plausible in how its scenario proceeds, and full of surprises, so I’ll say no more. The characterization is efficient and plausible and not just in the main characters.

Highly recommended with my one quibble that I don’t buy the basic Warrior Women in direct combat idea however well Walker is characterized. But Peters’ is a veteran of the Iraq War and certainly brings his own informed perspective on the issue.

As any post-apocalypse story with a prepper in it should, we learn some interesting details on how the technological infrastructure of modern life works and how to replace and repair some of it.

Additional Thoughts and Criticisms (with Spoilers)

Walker’s team finds themselves having to deal with former Iraqi insurgents and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. There’s tension, of course, in old enemies allying against a common threat, and Peters does a good job depicting, empathetically if not sympathetically, the mindset of these new allies:

Lying was a reflexive and crucial survival skill in a land constantly shuffling power between religious extremists, psychotic dictators and paranoid foreign occupation forces.

There is also a scene where Walker is imprisoned in a futuristic version of a rape camp in Mecca. The New Caliphate, as the invaders are ultimately revealed to be, captures all fertile women to impregnate them. Indicative of a fanatic devotion which transcends feminism, the Muslim woman who dominates her fellow prisoners immediately denounces Walker as an infidel in Mecca. (She does eventually aid Walker in an escape.) Peters’ shows tribalism in the now and future however tentative the alliances struck in this book. The story of Dixon and commune leader Rand beginning to create a working society again, shows the opposite extreme.

That theme of humanity putting aside its differences, a larger version of Americans eventually putting aside their differences in the Operation Enduring Unity trilogy, plays a part in a remark by Abraham Washington describing the politics of the future:

Nations exist in my time, but they’re more a philosophical and spiritual thing than having anything to do with geography or culture. Nation-states aren’t exactly a practical way to manage people spread out among a thousand inhabited planets and scattered across fifty-thousand light years. I guess you can think of countries in the future like religions.

 

Of course, the fly in the future ointment is the New Caliphate which captures Washington.

Nor is religious fanaticism only in the Middle East. Dixon and his commune along the Suwannee River (not so coincidentally an area Peters grew up in) in Florida have to contend with a the End Timers militia.

Of course the possibility of rape as a prisoner is much higher for female soldiers, but the main reason I’m skeptical of the Warrior Woman notion is not that I question the will or intelligence of female soldiers. I question that their bodies are as resilient or strong as males. And controlled studies and real-world experience backs me up. (And don’t cite the one-off, somewhat dubious training of women as American Army Rangers.) The evidence for my assertion can be found in Jude Eden’s “Women in Combat: The Question of Standards”. Eden, incidentally, served as a Marine in the Iraq War, and she has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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