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Literature / Black Tide Rising

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The first four volumes.
Steve Smith: Adventure is something that happened to someone else, preferably a long way away and a long time ago. When it happens it’s horror, terror or tragedy.
Faith Smith: Someday this will be an adventure.

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:

  1. Under a Graveyard Sky (2013)
  2. To Sail a Darkling Sea (2014)
  3. Islands of Rage and Hope (2014)
  4. Strands of Sorrow (2015)
  5. Black Tide Rising (anthology, June 2016)
  6. The Valley of Shadows (November 2018)

Not to be confused with Dark Tide or The Black Tides Of Heaven.

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.
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  • Artistic License – Law: Lampshaded; Near the end of the second book, a character points out that lots of stuff that is part and parcel of a zombie apocalypse is totally illegal. For example, the systematic extermination of infected zombies in an area is technically "slaughtering civilian persons some of whom are and some of whom are not American citizens without due process" AKA genocide.
    Seizing vessels willy-nilly. Clearing foreign towns without clearance from the legal government. No Rules of Engagement at all.
  • 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 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.
  • Call to Adventure: Discussed early in the first book;
  • 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.
  • Cool Old Guy: 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.
  • 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.
  • Fun with Acronyms: "ZAM" (or more commonly "Zammie"), for Zombie Apocalypse Moment, for things that would only make sense in a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Four-Star Badass: One of the survivors retrieved from Tenerife in the Canary Islands 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.
    "Ooooh," Hooch said, grabbing his jewels. "There’s things you just don’t say around guys."
  • 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 — the only way to make it in large quantities throughout the series — 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: Before civilization collapses, the FBI does everything it can to interfere with any research into the virus; in the eyes of the FBI, the microbiology experts doing said research are also the primary suspects — and the FBI's concern is more "find the guilty party" than "save civilization." Case in point; when a college student figures out the key process of the virus, the FBI arrests him out of hand, denies any scientist access to him for some time, and in the process traumatizes him so much he isn't of much help in combating it.
    They think about the perp walk and calming the public because, just because you have the culprit the plague is going to stop all by itself!
    • Truth in Television; after the 2001 anthrax attacks, USAMRIID and the CDC sent some researchers to the FBI as consultants. The FBI immediately accused the researchers of making the attack. After weeks of harassment, one of the researchers committed suicide — and the FBI immediately declared him solely responsible and closed the case.
      "As far as most epidemiologists were concerned, if you could explain to the FBI how something worked, in other words if you had the ability to do it, it meant to whoever you were talking, you were their current prime suspect. Which meant that nobody in their right mind in the industry wanted to explain anything to an FBI agent. Of course clamming up and being “uncooperative” also made you a prime suspect. Catch 22."
      • Bonus points; not only had the specific genetic strain used in the attacks never before been seen anywhere in the West, a key process in weaponizing it was a closely held Soviet secret. Nobody in the U.S. had ever produced it or had any idea how. USAMRIID and the CDC considers the attacks the biowar equivalent of the Roswell Landings.
  • Kukris Are Kool: One of Faith's main melee weapons is a Kukri.
  • Lawful Stupid: Ringo's favored target in this series.
    • On the federal level, law enforcement agencies spend all their time harassing their biotech consultants — and anyone else with microbiology training — ensuring that the disease runs its course.
    • On the state and city level, it quickly becomes public knowledge that the only source of vaccine is the spinal fluid of zombies, so anyone caught with effective vaccine(with identifiable human protein in it) is arrested for first-degree premeditated murder, while someone selling sugar water gets off with a fine. Also note that the arresting officers then use the seized vaccine themselves. As a result, less than one in ten thousand people are vaccinated, and over 99% of the human race is infected by the virus and turned into zombies.
  • 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.)
  • Mundane Utility: Submarines had a fascinatingly easy time of it. Their nuclear power sources are effectively infinite, as long as they have power they can purify water. Their stores are admittedly finite... but once they run low, they find a cute use for their sonar — one active ping will knock entire schools of fish senseless, whereupon they simply scoop them up off the surface of the water with their bare hands and soup's on.
  • 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).
  • Servant Race: "Betas" — humans who turned but later overcame the zombie virus — start to appear after a few years. Numbering about the same as uninfected survivors, they lack normal zombie aggression or any ability to spread the virus themselves, but their IQ has been reduced to the 60 to 80 range... thus making them quite satisfactory for many unskilled jobs. Smith points out that the uninfected human survival rate is around 1%, and there are a lot of important if unskilled jobs that need to be done. Most disturbingly, the initial baby boom was pretty much a flash in the pan; though every fertile woman rescued by Wolf Squadron was pregnant if a man was present — resulting in two thousand pregnancies coming to term pretty much simultaneously — but once part of the fleet conception essentially dropped to pre-plague levels and stayed that way. However, female betas are still fertile... and their test subject "just happened" to be pregnant when they found her.
    (Slavery is wrong.) One hundred percent and absolutely. So is sex with a person who cannot give knowledgeable and intelligent consent. The term there is rape.
    So is leaving fragile, helpless human beings to die lost and alone in a howling wilderness. So is famine from lack of agricultural workers. So is the rights you are fighting for dying out for lack of an educated supporting population, being replaced by a tide of barbarism, Madame Secretary. Which, since women will have no rights, will at least eventually solve the population problem.
    Last but not least, whether we like it or not slavery will occur. History matters. Slavery has always been, back to prehistory, a reaction to labor limitations. See also: human trafficking in the pre-Fall world.
    We need labor. Once it gets out that betas can be trained they will be rounded up and used for labor. Once that happens, abuses will occur and young ladies like Miss Katherine are going to end up barefoot and pregnant. Probably in brothels. And if one of them has AIDS or retains the H7 virus in its blood form despite the lack of symptoms? Wow, do we get problems.
    We can make laws against it. It will still occur, as will the abuses, and being already illegal that much harder to police.
    There are no good choices left in this world, Madame Secretary. Only less bad ones.
    Which do you choose?
  • 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.
  • Technically Living Zombie: Even though the virus has reduced them to such a horrid condition, H7D3 victims are still fully alive despite being rabid and savage.
  • 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.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Near the end of Strands of Sorrow, the Secretary of Education is recognized as the highest-ranking surviving member of the pre-Apocalypse US government... and she turns out to be a Zombie Advocate. She immediately orders;
    1. All clearing operations halted, abandoning uninfected survivors in infested areas.
    2. All infected be captured and restrained instead of killed, despite the lack of non-lethal weapons or a cure for late-stage infection — and the military is to search for her infected daughter while doing so.
    3. The heroes of the series be charged with crimes against humanity, stating that the infected are still technically human.
    • The final action sequence is a desperate strike into the heart of infected DC in search of someone who outranks her, because her administration will get everyone killed within weeks and the military refuses to enact a coup.
  • 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 Apocalypse: Justified, 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: one example is that the virus makes the infected tear off their clothes before they go completely insane — this is because;
    "They’ve got to crap. Every species eliminates waste. If you can’t figure out how to use a door handle, how are you going to take off your pants to take a crap? And modern clothing is going to plug it up. Eventually the subject dies of impaction and necrosis.”
    • Solution?
      "Formication. This refers to a form of paresthesia or ‘itching, tingling’ which feels like ants crawling on or biting the skin. Series of presentation is somewhat random, but at a certain point the patient tends to strip to get the ‘spiders’ or ‘ants’ off.” long as humans maintain boring, humdrum civilization, post-apocalyptic or apocalyptic fiction will remain popular. Because it is who we are in our hearts.
At our core, we are all savages.
John Ringo

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