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Literature / The Ashes Series

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William W. Johnstone's "Ashes" series is perhaps the most popular piece of pulp fiction still in issue today. Even two decades after they've been published, they continue to fly off the Wal-Mart shelves.

Which is interesting, because Johnstone's characters would probably kill most of their readers.

The "Ashes" series concerns a nuclear war which results in The End of the World as We Know It. Governments collapse, people die, and the world is left, as Ben Raines is so often to point out later, to "rise out from the ashes". The whole thing occurs because the evil librul govrnment is trying to ban firearms, and somehow gets away with it. Members of the military rebel, supposedly starting a nuclear war.


Ben Raines, former elite soldier for the US, former mercenary, full time writer, and ultimate Author Avatar, is offered a place in it but, in his "folly", refuses. After he survives the war (thanks to being allergic to wasp stings), he dithers for a while before taking control of the remaining rebels, and forming his own state and then his own nation.

As the series wears on (it's a total of 40 issues), Raines and his Rebels face such varied threats as criminal gangs, liberals, Nazis, Soviets, the Night People (a surprisingly non-threatening overarching villain group), terrorists, more liberals, Middle Eastern terrorists, yet MORE liberals...the list goes on.

Sound good?, it's not. Read on.

Not to be confused with The Ashes.


Provides Examples Of:

  • America Saves the Day: About when Raines decides to invade Ireland and England (and possibly France). Then, Raines and his Rebels become the official army of the new UN and this becomes the plot of most of the rest of the series.
  • Apocalypse How: Mostly a Class 1. Nearly all governments have either fallen or become police states.
  • Author Tract: The entire series is basically Johnstone pushing his conservative views.
  • Author Avatar: Ben Raines is arguably Johnstone as he wishes to be.
    • Given Raines' tendency to be a brilliant general, virile lover, father figure to his soldiers and stray orphans alike, and a two-fisted, machine gun-wielding kicker of much ass, he might even be called a a Cannon Sue.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Night People have supposedly existed long enough to carve their own hidden civilization. They're also played up as major threats, but the Rebels tend to beat them easy.
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  • Anti-Hero: Raines and his Rebels fight some pretty nasty being slightly less evil and a whole lot more tricky.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Rebel leadership seems to work off the "Dynasty Warriors" principle; when Raines, for example, is loosed on the enemy, he kills then by the dozens. Despite being a middle-aged man who's been almost killed several times.
  • Badass Driver: Cooper, Raine's personal driver.
  • Big Bad: Several. The longest-lasting Big Bads are the Night People/Believers/Whatever, though they never provide much of a threat.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Rebels usually come off like this, on the occasions when the population isn't already beaten into the ground.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Jersey, Ben Raines' personal bodyguard, has one of these.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Despite everyone constantly insisting that Raines' death would end the Rebels forever, when the villains capture him (quite often), they always save him for other things. Which always backfires.
  • Character Development: Subverted; no matter what the characters go through, the most that'll happen is that they'll reference it a little while later.
  • Cult: Several minor and major villains are in cults, the most important being relatively long-lasting villain Sister Violetta's Ninth Order. One cult is also a Rebel ally, led by comic relief character Emil Hite.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The Rebels are the gods of this trope. Just about every battle they're in is a curb stomp. It's usually handled quite poorly. On the TWO occasion when they suffered a major loss, the enemy was smart enough to 1) outnumber them so vastly that defeat was the only option, and 2) do that, except with more ambushing.
  • Deus ex Machina: Whenever things start to look bleak for the Rebels, something happens to give them the advantage.
  • Divided States of America: After the war, the USA splits into three nations. We have the "original" United States, which controls the Northeast and northern Midwest, The Southern United States of America, which controls the South and most of the Midwest, and the Western United States of America, which controls the western states.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: An occasional tactic the Rebels use. Quite often a basis for humor.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: The Rebel leaders are said to do this. Though, being The Rebels, who knows.
  • Dungeon Bypass: The Rebels have cornered their enemy in his heavily-fortified fortress. Taking it will require the lives of many men. Their response? Shell the place into oblivion. Almost every freakin' time.
  • Evil Brit: Subverted by Rebel commander Dan Gray.
  • Evil Gloating: The villains usually indulge in this. They're either met by unresponsive heroes, or the heroes use the time to turn the tables.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: For the bad guys, that is. In the whole series, there are TWO times this worked for the villains. And the Rebs recovered without a sweat.
  • Final Battle: On the rare occasions when one happens, it's usually almost anti-climactic. For one of the few exceptions to this, take Raine's one-on-one battle with long-time villain Sam Hartline.
  • For the Evulz: The Night People apparently had the authority and power to start WW 3. Why didn't they just control the world behind the scenes? See trope.
  • Friend to All Children: Harm a child (which all "Ashes" villains do) and Raines will kill you.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: When dealing with the South American Nazi hordes of Jesus Dieguez Mendoza Hoffman, you'll most often hear their Mooks speaking in Spanish. Sort of justified in that their Mooks are South American conscripts.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Happens quite often, in fact. To the point where several of Raines' commanders are former villains. Including known rapist and Aryan supremacist Georgi Striganov (he got better).
  • Hitchhiker Heroes: Raines self-imposed this one in the fifth book. He hasn't returned to it since.
  • Hollywood Atheist: The Night People (a.k.a. The Believers, for some reason) are like this, as one of the more rational ones explains to Raines. Mostly used to make them seem more evil.
  • Hollywood Healing: Raines again. The dude FELL OFF A MOUNTAIN and is still insisting on fighting in the front lines.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Night People. They can eat normal food if they want, but their favorite food is apparently human flesh. Carved from a live human. FOR TEH EVILZ!
  • Infant Immortality: Subverted.
  • Lie Detector: Used by the Rebels to test possible applicants, along with various other odds and ends.
  • Magnetic Hero: Raines. To an almost ridiculous point.
  • Mary Sue Topia: The Southern United States of American, a nation built entirely on the Rebels' right-wing ideals.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: A few of the more noble AntiVillains are like this.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization: The Night People come off as this sometimes.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The original Rebels start the war that allows all this to happen.
  • Never Found the Body / Left for Dead: When the villains think they've killed Raines, they rarely if ever try to check. Now, after the dude FELL OFF A MOUNTAIN in the first book, there was probably no need. After he SURVIVED, you'd think it'd become standing policy to blow up the body and light fire to its chunks before assuming him done with.
  • Oireland: Ben and the Rebels eventually clean up America and decide to invade the UK. Their first target is Ireland, which is peopled largely by stereotypes.
  • One Sided Battle: Almost every fight the Rebels get into, particularly in America (with the exception of New York).
  • Oppressive States of America: The post-war United States has turned into this, at least in the areas where it still holds authority.
  • Passing the Torch: Raines is supposed to be doing this with his son, Buddy. Despite that, there's no gradual handing over of his authority; Raines continues to rule, Buddy's just one of his commanders.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In addition to fighting against the evil liberal government, Raines and company have also clashed with the KKK and Nazis.
  • Rape as Backstory: Find one woman in all of the Ashes series who's explicitly said to NOT have been raped.
  • Rape as Drama: Happens rather frequently, particularly in the earlier books, but expect any captured woman to suffer through this. Repeatedly. In detail.
  • Recap Episode: The majority of the second book copies directly from the first, with only about half of it being new.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The position of all smart and recurring villains in the Ashes series.
  • Storming the Castle: Almost never happens. Usually, they just shell the place into oblivion.
  • Strawman Political: If you're almost anything but a Johnstone-style Republican, you're evil, insane, or both. Unless you're only deluding yourself into thinking you're not. While Johnstone provides a few token liberals, the word is generally used as a curse by the heroes.
    • Just to give an example, almost every conversation between the liberal characters later in the books is an insane rant, all dedicated to taking away the rights of the people. And freely admitting it. This is NOT how liberals talk, Johnstone!
    • Other conversations between Raines and liberals will either be one-sided rants countered by Raines' calm, rational logic or he manages to convince his opponent of the rightness of the Rebels' ways.
  • The Cavalry: Subverted; if Raines is in a hopeless situation, he either breaks out of it himself or gets captured and THEN breaks out of it himself.
  • The Man Is Keeping Us Down: Why the Rebels fail in the first book.
  • The Radio Dies First: Corrie, the radio operator, seems to get shot in the back ridiculously often.
  • Violence Is the Only Option: The official Rebel position. Granted, the series takes place in a universe where, if you're not Rebel or Neutral, you're almost irredeemably evil, but still...
  • Will They or Won't They?: Cooper and Jersey take this to an almost insane level.

Example of: