Literature / Black Tide Rising
In various places online and off, John Ringo
has mentioned that he didn't care much for most Zombie Apocalypse
fiction. So what does he do? He writes his own.Black Tide Rising
focuses on a Crazy-Prepared
family surviving the initial outbreak and taking refuge on a small boat in the Northern Atlantic. After a few months, they start scavenging other vessels, clearing them of zombies and rescuing survivors, finally establishing a small, well, nation of its own, charter and all.
The main characters are:
- Steven John Smith: Australian born ex-soldier in the Australian Special Air Service, later a naturalized American citizen.
- Stacey Smith: Steve's wife and engineer extraordinaire.
- Sofia: 15 year-old daughter of Steve and Stacey, the Smart Chick.
- Faith: The Action Girl. As in wearing 60 pounds of combat gear, fighting her way through entire hordes of zombies by hand, and doing all that while being 13 years old.
Books in the series:
- Under a Graveyard Sky (2013)
- To Sail a Darkling Sea (2014)
- Islands of Rage and Hope (2014)
- Strands of Sorrow (2015)
- Black Tide Rising (anthology, June 2016)
Not to be confused with Dark Tide
The series uses the following tropes:
- Arbitrary Minimum Range: From Strands of Sorrow:
- Mk 19 grenade launchers are used from Amtracks* on a swarm of zombies, but due to limitations of space and having five of them taking up much of that room, they find out that "overkill" really does exist, contrary to usual belief. Many of the grenades don't even get to arm before hitting zombies, who wind up just as dead anyway.
- The minimum range of Tomahawk cruise missiles is why the -D variant (cluster munitions) fired to clear a beach of a mass zombie swarm, fired from the USS Michigan, had to be steered around the long way inland before turning back to their actual targets. The other option, moving the Michigan further out to sea before firing, was considered and rejected.
- Author Filibuster: There is, at one point, a rant about how the pharmaceutical industry giants and the Bush administration may be responsible for the virus and/or seek to profit from the vaccine. It's delivered by an unreasonable Straw Character conspiracy theorist.
- Badass Grandpa: Even well into his seventies, Mr. Walker is able to keep up his end of the deal in Islands of Rage and Hope when the climactic mission is threatened by zombie swarms, ensuring that every last Marine that went on the mission survives and returns.
- Badass Family: The protagonists. Dad is a former special forces soldier, both daughters (particularly the younger one, Faith) mercilessly slaughter entire herds of zombies, and mom is an engineer that keeps things working in spite of resource limitations imposed by the setting even if she doesn't herself participate in zombie slaughtering
- Bury Your Gays: A gay cop is introduced, given some backstory and then killed. His husband later seemed to have been paired with his husband's straight partner sent to protect him but neither has been heard of since.
- The Cameo: Voltaire shows up in the midst of an apocalyptic rave in the Central Park.
- Car Fu: In Strands of Sorrow, Faith uses the mass and speed of her M-1 Abrams tank to great effect in running down zombies, complementing the M1028 canister rounds (think "120mm shotgun") she's blasting them with, ultimately killing all but maybe ten percent of a quarter of a million zombies by the time she's done.
- Chainsaw Good: During the operation to clear a cruise line ship, Faith mentions several times that she'd like to have a chainsaw available as a clearing tool, although Fontana points out some of the problems with using a chainsaw as a weapon.
- Crazy-Prepared: The Smith family have enough plans for different apocalyptic scenarios, with a code for every single one of them. The father also has at least one other identity ready in advance, which he uses to keep the preparations for the apocalypse from being tracked back to him.
- Demoted to Extra: Stacy barely appears in the third book and is only mentioned in the fourth.
- Dirty Communists: What remains of the Russian government has resurrected the Soviet Union.
- Fake Static: In Islands of Rage and Hope, when the civilian head of a Dutch-controlled Caribbean island is mentioned by Captain Smith to be screaming about Dutch Marines taken on a mission to save Prince Harry from London by US Marine Corps Colonel Hamilton, Hamilton starts faking transmission problems to not have to deal with it. Smith knows the static is fake, but it serves as sufficient excuse to not further bother Hamilton with the issue.
- Four-Star Badass: One of the survivors retrieved from the Caribbean is retired military, but when it all drops into the crapper on the London mission at the climactic battle of Islands of Rage and Hope, he reveals himself as a Special Forces Lt. General who was operating incognito for the sake of not winding up outranking Captain Smith, whose command of Wolf Squadron is more based on personal loyalties than formal chains of command. His actions when being swarmed by zombies ensure that every last Marine on the mission return safely and bring back enough material to make vaccines for all of the submarine crews.
- Gilligan Cut: Happens several times throughout the book, as part of the dialog.
Dad: "We are 'not' going to a concert, in the dark, in zombie infested New York, and that's final!
Sophia: "This band sucks!"
- Groin Attack: In a discussion on how to deal with infected security people aboard a cruise liner who are wearing body armor, Faith suggests a chainsaw. When Fontana points out the Kevlar armor would jam the chain, she says "come up", and makes a motion of cutting up between the legs.
- Hate Plague: H7D3 ultimately turns the infected into feral, vicious non-sapient cannibalistic animals who are human only in a biological sense.
- Heroic Comedic Sociopath: Faith verges on this at times, swinging somewhat unpredictably between the three parts of the trope. Justified in that she's a thirteen year old girl caught in a zombie apocalypse.
- Human Resources: The fastest way of collecting large amounts of antibodies for use in a vaccine against H7D3 is to collect the fluids from the head and spine of its victims, as it only infects higher level primates. The task is done under secret conditions by Thomas Smith and some associates due to the illegality of the act.
- Jurisdiction Friction: The FBI is mentioned several times as making it difficult to track down the virus, as the microbiology experts supposed to be assisting them are also the primary suspects, and the FBI's concern is more "find the guilty party" than "stop the virus". CDC staffers are particularly hostile to the FBI, thanks to how they reacted to previous events like the anthrax attack shortly after the September 11, 2001 attack.
- Lemony Narrator: John Ringo goes full Snicket in Strands of Sorrow as Faith tights with Trixie at Ft Hood.
- Little Miss Badass: Faith becomes well known, both in the story and out, as being a hardcore ass-kicker, at all of 13 years old.
- Memetic Badass: Faith is becoming one in-universe, thanks in part to videos made of earlier boardings of infested ships and with Marines after their rescue from the Iwo Jima (in which she played an important part as well).
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: The survivors that Wolf Squadron picks up favor women by a fairly high percentage. (And many of those women are pregnant.)
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- At one point the team salvages a luxurious yacht belonging to "Mike Mickerberg", the CEO of "Spacebook". Faith recognizes the owner among the zombies, and promptly serves him with a 12 gauge round.
- Later in the third book, an entire chapter is devoted to an island resort where several celebrities are encountered, such as "Jerome Arthurson" of the BBC hit show Top Speed, and "Brandon Jeeter", who is described as a "vocalist and every teen girl's heartthrob". Some of the celebrities that turn in that chapter are "Snoopi", who is mentioned several times as being a reality show starlet from New Jersey and "Rebekah Villon", the female lead of the teen phenomenon Midnight.
- Islands of Rage and Hope also introduces Anna "Wands" Holmes, star of the "Wizarding Wars" movie series. She joins Sofia's helicopter crew in "Strands of Sorrow" as a door gunner.
- As well as an expy of Harrison Ford, who later joins Wolf Squadron as a helo & fixed wing pilot.
- Strands of Sorrow brings us the Vice President of the US, who's clearly the universe's equivalent of Sarah Palin, albeit transplanted from Alaska to Texas.
- Not Using the Z Word:
- Given that zombies were previously regarded as purely fictional, the experts in the first book are initially reluctant to call victims of H7D3 "zombies", but eventually give in to the inevitable as everyone's thoughts gravitate that way anyhow.
- To Sail a Darkling Sea has a Marine who annoys others by insisting on a shifting list of terms including "C.H.U.D.s"
- No Zombie Cannibals: The Technically Living Zombies of the series have no problems with eating other victims of the Synthetic Plague if other meat isn't available.
- Our Zombies Are Different: The Technically Living Zombies, created by a Synthetic Hate Plague, do eat flesh like Romero zombies, but will turn on other zombies if no other food source presents itself, and can go into hibernation to conserve energy when food is unavailable. Ultimately, however, these can die on their own by starving to death, and don't require headshots or Applied Phlebotinum weaponry to kill.
- Sanity Slippage: Faith goes a little into this after they board a yacht that was taken over by the mercenaries hired to protect it and sees the carnage that followed, killing and rape everyone there. It becomes more serious when they're clearing a cruise ship later. Oddly it's not fighting zombies that does it but what she finds after the zombies are cleared out, the horror shows in the cabins, even the ones where they find survivors. She turns Trixie, a teddy bear they found on one ship into a Companion Cube as a coping mechanism.
- Schmuck Bait: One of the methods Wolf Squadron uses for dealing with zombies, discussed in Graveyard Sky and used in later books in the series, relying on the fact that zombies are attracted to noise and lights. Both done on a group level (ships holding large parties before machine gunning down zombies, and mounting speakers on vehicles to play music as a lure) and automated systems (modified cargo carriers turned into zombie shredding machines).
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Sofia and Faith
- Squee!: Faith tends to do this when presented with new ways of killing zombies, so much so that in Strands of Sorrow she's specifically ordered to not squee before being told of the tanks and other armed military vehicles at the Blount Island facility. She does it anyway, before catching herself.
- Survivor Guilt: Discussed in Islands of Rage and Hope, with a US Marine sergeant having a serious case of it after surviving the zombie outbreak at Guantanamo Bay because her superiors ordered her to retreat instead of trying to save them from a horde of Technically Living Zombies in the prologue, and is contemplating whether to shoot herself in the head or strangle herself and save the bullet for someone else.
- Synthetic Plague: H7D3 is a purposefully designed multi-stage agent that ultimately turns its victims into very aggressive humans with no real sapience, basically being little more than two-legged feral animals.
- Tanks, but No Tanks: In Strands of Sorrow, Faith initially mistakes anything with armor and a gun as a tank, until two NCOs that are with her set her straight on what qualifies as "tank", which the assault vehicles they were initially considering at the Blount Island facility certainly do not.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In general this is the attitude of those clearing the zombies, but in Strands of Sorrow during one attack against a horde using 40mm grenades fired from Amtracks within the Arbitrary Minimum Range of the grenades, it's mentioned that there is such a thing as "overkill".
- Trilogy Creep: As mentioned in the Acknowledgements section for Strands of Sorrow, there was originally only supposed to be three main books, with at least one collection of short stories written by various writers set in the Black Tide Rising universe, but Ringo's Muse wouldn't let go, and at the insistence of a wife that was getting tired of his pacing around Strands was written.
- Vestigial Empire: Many governments and their militaries, after the Hate Plague hits them, are almost totally destroyed, ruling only a relatively small part of their original territory. The US, Russia and China are specifically mentioned.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: In Strands of Sorrow, Faith goes to town on a horde of zombies in an M-1 Abrams tank equipped with M1028 rounds (canister rounds, think "120mm shotgun") that's shooting and running over many thousands of zombies. At "The Hole", the secure military facility outside of Omaha where the acting President is located, where they're watching the video take from an orbiting helicopter with a camera, it's said that the air carries "a very distinctive odor of vomit", and the acting president is shown lowering a waste basket, with the context of having just used it to catch his own vomit.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In Strands of Sorrow, when Faith goes to town on a horde of zombies in an M-1 Abrams tank equipped with M1028 rounds (canister rounds, think "120mm shotgun") that's shooting and running over many thousands of zombies, everyone in the helicopter that's watching the carnage loses their lunch, all of them Marines, and most having been previously through a lot of heavy fighting during the zombie apocalypse and in wars against ordinary humans.
- Would Hurt a Child: Many people comment on the fact they don't like killing the zombie children and while we don't see it happen the characters clean up the remains of children on occasion.
- Zombie Advocate: The Secretary of Education, during her stint acting in place of the missing President in Strands of Sorrow, orders all clearing operations halted, with talk about charging those involved with crimes against humanity, as the infected are still technically human. She also orders that the infected be captured and restrained instead of killed, in spite of the fact that the CDC determined that there was no way to reverse the infection and make the victims whole again and that it would be impossible to carry out her orders given the conditions of a zombie apocalypse.
- Zombie Apocalypse: Justified, The Virus H7D3 is man-made to create a zombie apocalypse. It's pointed out early on that it's clearly engineered to solve problems most zombie media wouldn't think of, such as, for instance, excrement blockage leading to infection and death from zombies not being able to remove clothes. The solution? Give the infected sensations that make them take their clothes off before they lose their minds.