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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 (co-written with Mike Massa, November 2018)
  7. Voices of the Fall (anthology, 2019)
  8. River of Night (co-written with Mike Massa, 2019)
  9. At the End of the World (Charles E. Gannon, 2020)
  10. We Shall Rise (anthology, 2021)
  11. At the End of the Journey (forthcoming, Charles E. Gannon, March 2021 release date)

A graphic novel titled "Black Tide Rising" is currently in production (having achieved crowdfunding in October 2020), written by Chuck Dixon, and adapted from the first book in the series, with elements added from the anthology stories and novels written by Massa.

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

The series uses the following tropes:

  • Arbitrary Weapon 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.
  • 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 apparently dies later, between books as the straight police officer reappears, alone, working for one of the villainous groups in "River of Night".
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: A pair of side-characters who show up in the third novel are a 17 year old boy and a very pregnant 12 year old girl rescued from a rubber lifeboat. Whilst the people of Wolf Squadron are ready to lynch the boy as a child rapist, the girl defends him, asserting that they never had sex—something that is medically proven. The best guess that the doctors of Wolf Squadron can come up with to explain how the girl conceived is a case of extraordinarily bad luck; the boy happens to be one of those men whose sperm are unusually vigorous, and since he and the girl were both frequently naked and masturbating in a life raft which was perpetually flooded with a low level of high-saline water, not too dissimilar to the fluids contained in the vagina, some of his sperm managed to make it inadvertently into the girl's vagina and thence to her ovaries when she was masturbating.
  • But I Read a Book About It: One short story from We Shall Rise has the survivors at a Catholic school depending on books from the school's library to guide them through their mechanical maintenance and gardening.
    With a little help from one of the middle school girls, Emily fixed all things mechanical for us—as long as the thing that needed fixing had an owner's manual.
  • But Now I Must Go: Subverted with Bjorn Klunder, the protagonist of one of the short stories. The people he helped save think Bjorn left in search of someone else to help once they could survive without him. What really happened is that Bjorn had a heart attack while on a supply run and drove his snowmobile onto a frozen lake. He and his snowmobile fell through the ice, never to be found.
  • But What About the Astronauts?: Efforts by the remnants of NASA to rescue the people in the International Space Station are shown in the background of the third novel and are given more focus in a short story.
  • 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.
  • Closest Thing We Got: In the short story "Maligator County," a survivor who taught at a Sunday school conducts the community's nondenominational church services.
  • 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.
    • The main couple of up on the roof and some of their friends are in their seventies and eighties and help come up with a good plan of survival for themselves, their families and others they gradually take in.
  • Construction Vehicle Rampage: In "Maligator County," the local survivors use a convoy of bulldozers, tractors, sprayers (to distribute poisonous pesticides), and combine harvesters to clear out the 7,000 zombies keeping them from re-settling the nearest town.
  • Corporate Warfare: The Bank of the Americas where Tom's brother works employ and organize various gangs and mercenaries to capture or kill zombies to harvest their bodily fluids for the (technically illegal) vaccine as things take a downward spiral.
  • 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.
  • Death by Childbirth: It's noted throughout the second through third novels that between the lack of doctors and medical equipment, compounded by the health issues of many survivors, a significant number of the pregnant survivors and/or their children are going to die in labor. The fourth novel, set after the "baby boom", makes it clear that this is exactly what happened.
  • Death of a Child: There are quite a few children eaten by zombies, or who die of thirst and such on the ships and life rafts that Wolf Squadron finds. The two youngest cheerleaders from the short story "Not in Vain" (both fourteen years old) are among those who turn.
  • 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.
  • The Elites Jump Ship:
    • Zigzagged with Tom Smith (the main characters brother) and his banker and pharmaceutical associates: They put a lot of effort into trying to stem the original outbreak, but they also set up fallback areas to flee to and ride things out for if/when that fails.
    • Social media CEO Mick Mickerburg gathered up an enormous yacht filled with his fellow executives, lots of scantily clad women, Private Military Contractor bodyguards, cooks and luxury items and went sailing off to try and ride things out at sea, like so many others. His bodyguards then attempted to mutiny and rape, rob and kill everyone else and rescue ships that arrive some time later find just two survivors.
    • In the short story "Descent into the Underworld," Italian villagers come into conflict with the inhabitants of a nearby Elaborate Underground Base (complete with a movie theater and swimming pool) inhabited by wealthy American doomsday preppers. A year after the Zombie Apocalypse, the Private Military Contractors guarding the bunker and at least some of the rich families inside it plan to steal the village's harvest. They also kidnap a child as a Replacement Goldfish for a family whose daughter drowns in the pool.
    • In the short story "Chase the Sunset," several Canadian soldiers discuss a list of their upcoming assignments. One of those assignments is liberating a six hundred foot deep bunker which houses the Canadian prime minster, a NORAD general, ten members of Parliament, and "assorted aides, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives and mistresses."
  • 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.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: "Mouse Sack", a gang member who becomes one of Tom's enforcers, companions. He's bitter about it.
  • Find the Cure!: Some of the short stories involve scientists working on a vaccine and/or soldiers capturing zombies for them, with said vaccine being referenced in the novels.
  • 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.
  • Giant Squid: Downplayed. In the fourth novel, a trip to San Diego CA brings a ship of marines into a bay that, due to the millions of infected active, has become a perpetual feeding ground for both Great Whites and Humboldt Squid. The latter actually freak out the marines observing the feeding frenzy more than the sharks do. Especially after a particularly nightmarish scene where infected begin falling a near-fatal distance onto a partially submerged deck and begin being dragged bodily into the swarming mass of squids. An observer comments that California's beaches probably won't be safe to swim at again for the rest of his life, as Humboldt squid are not only highly aggressive carnivores, but also highly intelligent, and possibly possess social inheritance... meaning that not only are these squids learning to prey on human victims, but they'll teach other squid to do the same.
  • 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!
  • Give Geeks a Chance: Billy, the protagonist of the short story Ham Sandwich, recalls how lucky he felt in high school that his pretty, popular girlfriend Cindy liked him, an overweight kid obsessed with electronics.
  • Good Shepherd:
    • In the short story "Up on The Roof" two of the groups of fleeing motorists who show up asking the main characters for refuge (and receive it) are Chicago clergymen and their families and congregations, who'd holed up in their churches before having to move out.
    • Pastor Gerber in "The Road to Good Intentions" is a fire and brimstone radio preacher but also shows a caring side towards the people in his care, and a desire to reach out and help others.
  • 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."
  • Gun Nut: The main character of the short story "How Do you Solve a Problem Like Grandpa" is a gun hoarder whose collection goes well into the triple digits. His family tries to pressure him to sell most of his collection until the zombies show up.
  • Hate Plague: H7D3 ultimately turns the infected into feral, vicious non-sapient cannibalistic animals who are human only in a biological sense. It's essentially a tweaked version of the Rabies virus that doesn't kill its victims.
  • 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 at the start of the series, and then becomes open policy once the apocalypse has ravaged the world and people are struggling to rebuild.
  • Human Traffickers: In the backstory of the Tom Smith books Ricky was a victim of sex traffickers who (prior to the apocalypse) gave her to a mafia member to try and curry favor. he was not amused, and had them killed.
  • 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.
    • Decker, a character introduced in the third novel, is initially hyper-focused on military law and procedure due to suffering extreme Sanity Slippage. Most notably, he's introduced having kept his infected superior officer alive and subdued in his raft because another superior officer, before being killed, told him to take care of him. It's noted that he's actually all but useless outside of a controlled, non-combat environment, because he lacks any sense of initiative. In the fourth novel, he manages to snap back to his senses, at least mostly.
    • When they rescue the marine recruits from Parris Island, it's noted that due to the recruits having spent the months of the apocalypse constantly being drilled to parade formation, they have similar issues to Decker, if less extreme.
    • After the incident at Parris Island, it becomes standard operating procedure for the Marines of Wolf Squadron to treat all Defense personnel survivors as "civilians", regardless of former official rank, until they have managed to determine whether they've discovered somebody who has adjusted to the realities of this new post-apocalyptic world or if they've got a (possibly crazed) idiot who can't see past the rules and regulations.
  • Lemony Narrator: John Ringo goes full Snicket in Strands of Sorrow as Faith fights with Trixie at Ft Hood.
  • Life Saving Misfortune:
    • In "Social Distance," a group of teenagers are signed up for an intense outdoor survival course by their parents to shape them up after (mostly minor) acts of delinquency. Being outside of the city when the zombies rise makes this punishment ultimately beneficial for them.
    • In "Maligator County," the protagonist observes that tourists would have certainly brought the zombie infection to the area if the owner of the only tourist site hadn't closed it down for a few weeks. The reason he closed it was to devote more time to helping two relatives with health issues.
  • 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.
  • Mama Bear: The Secretary of Education tries to cease zombie-killing activities and put zombie-killers on trial for murder because she was separated from her daughter during the breakdown of society. Her daughter was almost certainly turned into a zombie afterward and it is implied that the secretary is trying to save her (zombified) life and/or take revenge on the people who might have already put her down.
  • 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, which is explained as a natural result of men tending to sacrifice themselves to protect women.
  • Men of Sherwood: In the short story "Maligator County", several of the drivers during the Construction Vehicle Rampage against the zombies don't appear until right before the battle. Additionally, most of the gunmen and archers providing covering fire from the backs of the vehicles. Only one man dies, in exchange for 7,000 dead zombies.
  • 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 (Harold Chrysler), 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.
  • No Pregger Sex: Subverted. It's mentioned several times during Stacey's third pregnancy that her and Steven's sex life is the opposite of impeded by her condition. Also, the pregnant 12 year old is advised by a doctor to begin having daily sex with the 17 year old father of her child because the medical benefits of doing so may be the difference between her living or dying when she goes into labor.
  • 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: Subverted. 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.
  • Pom-Pom Girl: The short story "Not in Vain" follows a cheerleading squad during the initial outbreak who are characterized as energetic, yet perfectly nice, with a strong team dynamic and a willingness to sacrifice themselves to make more of the vaccine if infected.
  • 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.
  • Science Hero: Plenty of scientists working on vaccines or at the remnants NASA fill this role in the books and short stories.
  • 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).
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: The short story "Social Distance" has a youth counselor who is bitten by a rattlesnake on the eve of the Zombie Apocalypse make a high-pitched yelp like "a girl getting free tickets to a Taylor Swift concert."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    • Steve himself does this after getting Tom's warning at the beginning of the series, walking out of the classroom he's teaching and gathering his family.
    • In the short story "Up on the Roof" after witnessing their chopper reporter get infected and shot. One of the news anchors abruptly gets up and says he's leaving. Ironically, while he's never heard from again, his co-anchor and cameraman (both of whom stay at their posts until the power runs out) are later shown finding refuge in the main characters group.
  • Serendipitous Survival: In the short story "Spectrum" Enoch Mists over Water, an autistic Living History exhibit avoids the zombie apocalypse due to living inside in a walled-up park where he works the rest of the year that's in the off-seasons. Due to his condition he takes a long time to notice how odd it is that no one starts showing up again afterwards, aside from two "Betas" who he takes in as "volunteer docents".
  • 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?
  • Shout-Out: The short story "Up on the Roof" has a scene with people from a news station flying a helicopter looking for a refuge (and finding the main characters group). Dawn of the Dead (1978) comes to mind.
  • 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.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: A lot of what makes this series so distinct is its efforts to put a realistic spin on the Zombie Apocalypse. Rather than magical walking corpses, the zombies are humans reduced to hyper-aggressive feral carnivores by a Synthetic Plague. The virus is also engineered to induce the infected to strip off because a "zombie" who was clothed would ultimately become infected and die due to toxins from a build-up of waste products trapped in its pants. Because the zombies are living creatures, they can be taken down by any kind of damage, it's just a matter of bleeding out.
    • The vast majority of female survivors rescued who had male companions turn out to be pregnant, simply because when people are stranded together in close quarters with no other major distractions, sex tends to become a default means to alleviate boredom and stress.
  • 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.
  • Take That!:
    • The short story "Ex Fide Absurdo" has the characters talking about how disappointing it is that the Zombie Apocalypse prevented the release of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. They agree it would have been fun to see those movies unless the filmmakers did something completely stupid like bringing the Emperor back to life, having a Darth Vader Suspiciously Similar Substitute, or killing off Han Solo. They then proceed to laugh at the idea that any filmmaker would be stupid enough to alienate the fanbase by killing Han.
    • Liberation Day (which was written in 2019 or 2020) features a Jerkass Conspiracy Theorist who won't take the zombie vaccine even though this is putting the whole community at risk. Eventually, his exasperated neighbors physically hold him down while he gets vaccinated. The scene is a pretty blatant criticism of people who won't get vaccinated against COVID-19.
  • 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 Weapon Range of the grenades, it's mentioned that there is such a thing as "overkill".
  • To Be Lawful or Good: A recurring issue that our heroes face is that the "Good" thing to do (aka, that which will help humanity survive the zombie apocalypse and reclaim Earth) is often very much not the "Legal" thing to do.
    • This starts as early as the opening infection, when it becomes evident that the only feasible way to prepare large amounts of vaccine and potentially avert widespread outbreaks is to euthanize the infected to derive vaccine culture from their spinal columns: this is recognized as both very pragmatic and horribly inhumane, and the people who do it strive to cover up their activities as best they can, lest they end up going to jail as serial killers.
    • To Sail A Darkling Sea features a surviving military lawyer who feels she has to resign her former position to be of use to the survivors, as otherwise she would be legally obligated to report them for the many, many acts of civil and military crime they are committing in the process of saving the remnants of humanity from the infected.
    • In Strands of Sorrow, when the Secretary of Education takes over as the highest remaining legitimate authority in America, the military remnants who have been keeping humanity alive face two choices: overthrow her in a coup for the good of humanity, or do the legal thing and submit to her ruling, even if this means potentially causing humanity's extinction. They find the former idea so repellent that they are all but willing to concede to the second option, before they are convinced to instead Take a Third Option: undertake a Suicide Mission into the heart of infected Washington to recover a higher-ranked political survivor who can legally overrule the Secretary's insanity.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Recovered at Parris Island is Colonel Downing, who not only spent the months of the apocalypse simply repeating basic training instead of trying to do more practical things with his recruits, but also takes one look at Faith and proceeds to chew her out as a glorified mascot who has no place in the Marines due to being underaged and not formally trained, before declaring her discharged. This makes him immediate persona non grata with pretty much every Marine and Navy personnel in Wolf Squadron, and causes him to get elaborately chewed out over just how big a mistake he made, demoted and Reassigned to Antarctica. Zigzagged in that, once it all dies down, even Faith feels that he was punished a bit too harshly and he is given some redemption.
  • 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 of the novel is a desperate strike into the heart of infected DC in search of anyone who could outrank 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.
  • Wasteland Elder: Several such characters appear in the short stories, set within a few years of the Zombie Apocalypse.
    • In "The Road to Good Intentions," Pastor Garber is over seventy and serves as the leader for his community, an isolated town that struggles to keep out the zombies.
    • Munro in "Return to Mayberry" and Joe Gallrein in "Maligtor County" both set up well-defended farming collectives so they, their large families, and various neighbors and relatives can survive early on. Later, they push forward to wipe out the zombies in nearby towns and rescue people who are trapped in buildings and starving to death.
    • The short story "A Thing or Two" briefly features Robin, a late middle-aged woman in charge of a backwoods town that largely survives by trading with an extended family of nearby moonshiners for alcohol to use in their makeshift hospital.
    • The short stories "The Downeasters" and "Liberation Day" feature a Maine island with about sixty inhabitants who struggle to remain vigilant against the zombies and deal with dwindling supplies. The oldest woman on the island, wheelchair-bound Matilda Grant, is also on the board of selectmen who make decisions. She exerts less leadership than the two younger selectmen and dies of lung cancer during the Time Skip between stories, but still fills the role of a wise, elderly survivor who says things that are worth listening to.
  • Wasteland Warlord:
    • Recurring character Eric Lamont, "King of Miami and the Kingdom of Florcubatamp," is a former soldier who was dishonorably discharged after failing a drug test. After the Zombie Apocalypse, he turns most of Florida into a feudal kingdom, while boasting over the radio about how he'll take over everywhere else in due time. The people in his "protectorates" are fairly comfortable and well-treated, but he doesn't hesitate to have his enemies fed to the zombie hordes. Ultimately, he chooses to form a truce with the the restored government rather than fight it.
    • The short story "Appalachia Rex," features King Dale, a militia leader who declares himself the monarch of Tenessee and refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the restored government, who he accuses of causing the outbreak in the first place. The narrator (a Catholic schoolgirl) and her classmates are concerned and suspicious that Dale and his men want them as Sex Slaves, although this is never confirmed.
  • 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.”
  • Zombie Apocalypse Hero: The main protagonists are a history professor and his thirteen-year-old Waif-Fu-happy daughter. Among the tougher and more successful protagonists of the tie-in short stories are a paraplegic septuagenarian Friendly Sniper, a cheerleading coach, a bunch of gamers, a selectman on a Maine island, a family of moonshiners, and a farming community (plus refugees who include a Gun Nut stockbroker) that has a pack of zombie-killing guard dogs and ultimately goes on a Construction Vehicle Rampage. 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