The Setting of Enduring Armageddon
The Review of Enduring Armageddon
At times, I had to trust the author, because I felt that the book was about to go off the rails and jump the shark, but lucky, he navigates those moments, keeping the book on target. One of these times was at the very start of the book. The nuclear war is not the center of the book, but rather the aftermath, and it seemed that Chuck and Rebecca's life in Plainfield was not as hard as you might expect give the nuclear holocaust. However, it rapid picks up after they arrive in Virden, and the true horror is shown. One of the best features of Enduring Armageddon was that the book does not laser-focus on the zombies as the main threat, but rather humans being dicks, and that generated the horror and disgust to be more realistic and threatening. I had flashbacks to the Terminus storyline from The Walking Dead, and you quickly realize that no one is safe in the world of Enduring Armageddon, and makes this one hell of a compelling read.
The Interview with Author Brian Parker
1. Tell us about the genesis of Enduring Armageddon.
BP: I’d just finished my first book GNASH – which will be available from Permuted Press in February 2016! – and it was a zombie novel. One of the key elements in that story, without giving too much away, is a nuclear detonation that destroys what we believe to be indestructible. I wanted to explore the concept of survival in a nuclear wasteland. How would an everyday guy and his wife, with literally no special skills or abilities, deal with survival during a nuclear winter and what were the limits that they’d be willing to go to in order to stay safe?
2. Your title was rather unique and not standard within the genre. Why did you choose "Enduring Armageddon" as the title? Did it have to do with the journey of Chuck?
BP: I always have a working title for my books and the working title for this one was originally “Snowball Earth” because the main environment for most of the book is a nuclear winter, which scientists theorize could happen after a global nuclear war due to all the debris that would be thrown into the atmosphere. Obviously, that’s a little corny for a serious novel and so after I was complete with the book, I thought about the development of the main character, Chuck. He evolved so much during the novel; initially, he was unsure and unwilling to cross any type of boundary because his mind was still locked in to the civilized society in which he’d been raised. Over time and with several extreme examples to follow, his mentality evolves and he becomes the hunter instead of the hunted. About 75% of the way through the book, he realizes what he’s become and he doesn’t like what he sees in the mirror. So, yes, ultimately the title of the book is about Chuck’s journey through the desolate landscape that was the United States.
3. Why did you choose the Zombie Apocalypse genre to set this novel in, given the crowded playing field of this popular genre?
BP: I classify Enduring Armageddon as more of a post-apocalyptic fiction than a zombie apocalypse novel. Yes, there are creatures that the characters call “zombies” because they’re part of our popular culture, but even Chuck states that they aren’t really zombies. The creatures are humans who’ve been driven mad by radiation and their circumstances. They can die just like regular people, the only difference is they don’t register pain, so they can be shot several times or rip their body to shreds on glass trying to kill someone. A key to the story is that they also starve to death, becoming much less of a threat over time.
4. Your book uses a nuclear holocaust to give birth to the "zombie apocalypse". This was more common explanation decades before, so why did you use a nuclear exchange as the trigger for your outbreak?
BP: The idea that a mutually-assured destruction is a deterrent for nuclear war is long gone. We believe that there are non-state actors actively seeking nuclear weapons to use against Western nations. We know that radiation can do all sorts of things to living organisms and depending upon the type and dosage of radiation, some of those effects can be immediate or long-term. The mutation of creatures at the cellular level – remember the scorpions? – is well documented but, relatively speaking, it’s only been tested on a small sample size. So, the “zombies” that I describe in Enduring Armageddon aren’t necessarily that far off. They’re people, with cancerous growths on their bodies making them seem grotesque to non-infected people, driven mad and starving because they don’t know how to do anything for themselves anymore. They attack animals, people and pretty much anything that moves in an attempt to satisfy the most basic of human needs: the need for nourishment.
5. Your novel fused elements from works like War Day, The Road, Jericho, and some classic zombie settings. Were these works or post-nuclear apocalypse fiction from the 1970's and 1980's your inspirations?
BP: I haven’t ever read War Day, but McCarthy’s The Road is one of my favorite books. I think he paints the picture of the hopelessness of a post-apocalyptic survival situation perfectly. I’m asked all the time why I write things about other survivors being the dangerous ones and people often say that if humans were so base, then we never would have developed a society in the first place, and I agree, to an extent. Our ancestors knew how to farm, hunt and fish; a majority of our current population – in America anyways – has no clue how their food gets to the grocery store. Add in acid rain that makes the soil unusable for several years so even the ones who do know how to grow crops can’t farm and of course, it would become survival of the fittest. People today don’t realize how much a person will sacrifice to keep their loved ones safe, but it’s still there, deep inside of all of us. We are a violent species, the apex predator. When there’s nothing else to prey upon, we will hunt each other.
6. Given your military background, I was surprised that your main character Chuck was far from a soldier. Did you want to use Chuck has a vehicle for demonstrating the evolution from the world that was to the world that is now? Or was Chuck a symbol of the doing what you have to do in order to survive and protect?
BP: I’ve been in the US Army for 20 years and my book GNASH has a very heavy military flavor to it, following special operators as they deal with the zombie apocalypse in that book and how I feel the military would really react in that type of situation. However, let’s be honest, aren’t you sick of reading about the guy who worked at the supermarket until the zombies came and suddenly he’s a level-84 super-ninja with a different skillset for every scenario? As mentioned above, Chuck changes drastically throughout the book. He’s a financial advisor, making tons of money before the war, but that doesn’t matter after the collapse of the banking system. His wife is a teacher and her skills at managing children and educating them about basic math and science are more important than his ability to correctly pick a stock on any given day. Chuck ends up doing whatever needs to be done to keep Rebecca safe, including murdering other survivors.
7. Enduring Armageddon is a book that takes place in real locations in the United States, and some I've actually been to (I live in the DFW metro-plex, and grew up in Oklahoma). How did you chose the locations and why?
BP: All of my books take place in real locations! Google Maps with the satellite imagery is ALWAYS open as I write. Hell, in my military fiction Battle Damage Assessment I even used my hometown of Seymour, Missouri as the main character’s hometown, but I still had the satellite photos up to describe where he walked and hung out to help me visualize spatially where everything is. In GNASH, I even use the correct Lat/Long to describe a location to bring Apache helicopter pilots onto a target in the middle of Indianapolis. Sure, it’s more research, but bringing real places into the story helps me keep it more realistic and if I’m fact-checked, I know that I’ve got it right.
8. You paint a wonderfully told bleak future where “normal” humans can be more dangerous than the “zombies.” Was this social commentary or a truth about human nature?
BP: Absolutely! Humans are violent, devious and self-centered. We hide it pretty well in today’s society, but look at just one of our modern day examples of how quickly things go downhill. My brigade, 2nd Brigade 1st Cavalry Division, went to New Orleans to assist in the evacuation and conducted presence patrols in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Less than a week after the loss of power and fresh food, people looted, murdered, raped and did whatever the hell they wanted in that city. Once we got there and were supervising people getting onto the buses to evacuate to places like Houston, people dropped their pants and shit in the line so they wouldn’t lose their place, human “decency” and sense of moralities had gone out the window. And that was with an entire country basically unaffected less than a hundred miles away. Imagine what would happen if everything went down at once, which is what my post-apocalyptic novel A Path of Ashes is about… Yeah, I love writing about the collapse of society!
9. Given your well-developed cast of characters, are any based on real people?
BP: I get asked this question a lot also. My brother is convinced that every one of my main characters is my “alter ego,” but I really don’t have characters based directly on anyone. Wait, I take that back! I was working for a Canadian Army officer when I wrote my paranormal thriller The Collective Protocol and he would eviscerate staff officers, calling into question their upbringing and intelligence in the nicest way possible; it was a very strange way of doing business – they really are just so nice... So in TCP the Canadians are the “bad guys” and there is a Canadian general who is an awful lot like the guy I worked for.
10. I liked the point of a Doomsday Preppers being the warlord of a small town. What is your opinion of preppers? Are you one yourself?
BP: No, I’m not a prepper, which is strange since I do believe that something is going to happen during my lifetime. I think one thing that keeps me from collecting more supplies is that I move every two or three years in the Army. Maybe if I had a long-term home, I’d have more prepper tendencies though. My wife and I are both in the Army, so we have tons of military gear at the house anyways. I don’t think I’d be one of those bastards that I write about that takes from other people to feed their family, but you never know what you’re capable of until you’re faced with that situation.
11. Often books that contain zombies have the creator attempting to reinvent the creatures themselves, but yours didn’t. Often it seemed that humans were the bigger threat, which is more terrifying. Why did you chose do that shift?
It’s absolutely my belief that in an apocalyptic scenario, the other survivors would be the real threat. The “zombies” in Enduring Armageddon are dangerous as hell, but can be avoided or tricked relatively easy once the characters understood what they wanted. Take for example in the middle of the book when the small horde of them builds up around the hotel where Chuck and Rebecca find themselves. They go up on the roof and lure them side to side, using a long rope with a noose on the end to catch and strangle the dumb creatures since they still follow the basic rules of human anatomy of needing oxygen to survive.
Humans, on the other hand, are different. We’re devious and the ability to hide our true intentions even manifests itself in infants that lie about crapping in their pants. A human will tell you whatever you want to hear as long as it gets you out of their way so they can continue on doing whatever they want. If what they want is to take what you have, then they’ll figure out a way to get it.
12. Nearly every one of your characters is battered, beaten, scarred, and transformed by their experiences. It was exciting to see what the fates dealt the characters. Did you ever step back from the computer, and feel guilty about the hell that you put these characters through?
BP: Sometimes I feel that way. I write in the very nasty realm of speculative fiction. Bad things happen to people in today’s quaint society. It would be a bloodbath in real life if any of the situations that I write about were to ever actually occur.
13. Any special reason for using the specific K-Bar knife? I wanted to buy one after the reading the book!
BP: K-BARs are just an awesome, time-tested piece of gear. They have pretty much everything you’d need in a survival knife: sharp edge for cutting, pointed end for stabbing/making holes, a serrated edge for sawing and a hardened handle that you could use as a hammer or to break windows in a pinch.
14. The character of Alejando was a real left turn in the book, and new angle on characters living in the post-holocaust world. Tell me about why you included this character into the book.
BP: It’s based on a lesson that I learned as a child and have tried to pass on to my kids: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Obviously, I don’t want to spoil the book for potential readers, but things are often not what they seem and to quote the original Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.”
15. Are there plans for a sequel...I want to know about Chuck, Alejandro, and Rebecca! What lies in store for your characters?
BP: I purposefully left it open-ended. Much like GNASH, originally a stand-alone novel, expanded into a three-book series called Washington, Dead City, I do want to revisit the world of Enduring Armageddon. I think there’s a story to tell as they escape and try to make their way in the mountains of northern Mexico as the Earth once again tries to rebalance itself after the nuclear winter. Temperatures would soar, with wild fluctuations between hot and cold from one day to the next. It would be an interesting follow-up and I’d love to put the characters through some more hell!
Should You Read Enduring Armageddon?
I think that this book ranks as one of the best post-apocalyptic zombie-apocalypse thrillers I've read since The Five, and it is a compelling read with all manner of twist, turns, and horrors to capture your attention, making you lose sleep and ignore the outside world to find out what happens next to the characters that you've become attached to. A very solid book for an emerging talent, and is a fresh take on the genre. This should rank up there with World War Z book, and if you are interested in the genre of Zombie Apocalypse or post-nuclear apocalypse or just a good thriller, you need to read Enduring Armageddon. This is a damn fine read that will stay with you, and Brian Parker is an author that your to keep an eye on.
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