A World Torn Asunder is a nice introduction to the Post-Apocalyptic world of Vampire Apocalypse. It avoids a lot of the pitfalls I've always had with zombie apocalypses. Specifically, 'how can people be so stupid to lose the entire planet to these guys?' George Romero has slow moving cannibal creatures destroy the world's population, despite the fact the military should be able to wipe them up very quickly. Yeah, I know it's social satire but that doesn't excuse some basic issues of storytelling. Was the military was on coffee break that week? Soldiers strike? Throw me a bone here.
While vampires taking over the planet is not quite as difficult to believe as zombies, there's still the question of 'how exactly do these people take over?' Derek Gunn's vampires can't exist in the daytime and die if you set them on fire. That's a pretty big pair of weaknesses. It's not like White Wolf's World of Darkness where the Antediluvians can just kill a million people by thinking hard and are immune to everything up to and including nuclear weapons.
Thankfully, the author handles the issue by having the world decaying before the vampires seize power. It reminds me a great deal of the Road Warrior's description of how humanity fell to chaos. What was the narrator's description?
To understand who he was, you have to go back to another time. When the world was powered by the black fuel. And the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel. Gone now, swept away. For reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel, they were nothing. They built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. The cities exploded. A whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men.
The short version, described in the prologue, is that humanity has been cut off from the Middle East's oil supply by instabilities in the region. As a result, the rest of the world has fallen into economic chaos. The United States has split into fifty separate countries and everywhere else is equally ****ed. It's not entirely believable but it's enough to satisfy my suspension of disbelief. Really, without oil to power society, the world is going to collapse. Alternative energy be damned.
The depiction of small town life in the opening chapters really appealed to me. I grew up in a small town and believe me, if you want to take over the world you should start in Ashland, Ky. Russians could invade and it would be a month before the state government noticed. Plus, I'll be honest, I'm pretty sure my neighbors would sell my family out to the vampires for an extra foot of yard space.
So, obviously, I'll sell them out first when the vampire revolution comes.
I won't post any spoilers but the shocking swerve at the end of the vampire "takeover" process left me feeling a little sick. It was a nice way to introduce our villains and show us just how dangerous they are. The fact that they take over through raw strength and no tricks is also a nice change. Too often, authors try and depict vampires as a race of Emperor Palpatines. While his manipulations were about the only thing good in the Star Wars prequels, I think there's something to be said for brute force. When forced between dying and their children dying or serving as a slave, most people will choose to be a slave.
That's just my experience. *shifts his eyes* By the way, all those worlds I've enslaved had it coming.
I won't bother describing the post-vampire takeover world other than to say it's nicely imagined as Hell on Earth. Humans live in camps as literal fodder for the vampires and they are guarded by traitors to the human race, people rewarded with slaves picked from the most attractive prisoners. Derek Gunn doesn't go into detail about that particular aspect, but it nicely reflects the world is a horrible place to live and there's nothing remotely sympathetic about its vampire rulers. No sparkly vampire romanticism here (not that there's anything wrong with that - I quickly tell my wife).
The majority of the book's later half is about a squadron of survivors who are doing their best to survive despite the slow decimation of their ranks. The majority of humanity is kept drugged out of their minds so there's not much in the way of a resistance as our story begins but our heroes are trying to change that. Despite that, their heroism never comes off as unbelievable and it neatly avoids the "one great man" theory of human leadership. There's a lot of people who serve in the Human Resistance and all of their contributions count. I love Terminator but it seems a bit of a cop-out to say that if not for John Conner, the entirety of humanity would roll over and die.
Overall, I really enjoyed the treatment of vampires. Are they 'Always Chaotic Evil' psychopaths who are irredeemably evil from their transformation? Yes. After so many years of poor misunderstood vampires, I'm more than happy to just watch them revert to their soulless evil bloodsucker roots. The main vampire, Nero, is a monstrous scumbag with no redeeming qualities and there's nothing wrong with that. It makes the situation for the humans all the more desperate.
I'm not the kind of guy who gushes over books but I I really enjoyed this one. It was a nice remedy to an overworked schedule and all manner of depressing things going on with my life. Sometimes, you just want to read about a squadron of desperate resistance fighters blowing the hell out of the undead.
Vampire Apocalypse: A World Torn Asunder is a book about fighting vampires, survival, and inspiring but believable protagonists. As fiction goes, you could do a lot worse. You know, if you like post-apocalyptic fiction about vampires running feeding pens straight out of your worst nightmares.
Maybe it's an acquired taste.