When I see a fellow military vet get into writing, I’m always curious how their military background and experiences will come into play in the story. It doesn’t matter if it’s a thriller, a space opera or epic fantasy, somehow those real world experience will come into play in the story somehow. In the case of Irregular Scout Team One, the author’s experience as a soldier who served in the Middle East plays directly into the story, and sets up the main character’s arc in quite intriguing ways. While the story is about surviving the zombie apocalypse, it raises some interesting questions about just how it could be survived, and points out some things that shows like The Walking Dead overlooked or got dead wrong.
The world building is based on the premise that an artificially created zombie plague is released to the world at large. Not a unique premise, but one thing you don’t usually see is how the zombie apocalypse actually started. Where did it originate? That is not the case in this book, where you see from the beginning just how the plague began, and the reason is a complete shock, in the best way, since it’s so unexpected. From here, we are taken all over the country as the plague spreads around the world, turning the vast majority of the world’s population into ravening flesh eating undead, while the remnants of the government rallies the survivors to try and hold onto civilization as much as possible. The book very much discusses the degradation of the technology as time passes, and some of the very real consequences of what happens to everything when the parts and maintenance that keeps modern technology going are no longer available. you know, because things like gasoline and car batteries are very much perishable, and the water system and electrical grid are very much dependent on maintenance. Oh, and the book even shows what happens over time to that most precious resource that is toilet paper. It’s not pretty.
The story is very character centered, with the story being told in memoir format by Nick Agostine, who is looking back across the years to the beginning of the plague and how he and his companions met and survived, as well as showing all the loss and trauma they dealt with along the way. From his role guarding a bridge as the plague first spread and he discovered it was a zombie apocalypse that overran his people, to starting the Irregular Scout Teams to scout the way for the remnants of the military to try and take back as much of the world as possible. HIs family dead, he is traumatized and goes feral, and it’s only chance that brings him back to civilization and back to himself, using his skills surviving the end of the world to teach others and lead the way to retaking what they can back from the undead. His patriotism is often at odds with his desire to try and live a normal life, and no matter how many sacrifices he makes, they still keep waving the flag in front of him, knowing that he is the real Captain America.
The supporting cast is one of my favorites in any series in 40+ years of reading. Chief among these is Britt O’Neal, who started as a college student who was surviving just fine during the ZA, thank you very much, and became an accomplished zombie killer. Feisty and merciless when it comes to zombies and idiots, she ends up Nick’s wife and sounding board, and is there to knock sense into him as needed. She is just such a fun character, and as a ginger, she has already stolen Nick’s soul. There are a lot of other characters that flow through the series as well, with various teammates like Jonesy, a former criminal who is a valuable part of the team, Nasser, a former Afghan opponent of Nick’s when overseas wars mattered but is now his team sniper and Doc, a former spec ops doctor that is the teams medic, and is a zombie killing badass on his own. All these characters and so many more go through the story, and we get to hear about their lives prior to the ZA and how they got to the current day, and it’s such a wide variety of experiences. The books take place over a ten year period, across the country in various locations, and we see a lot of different survivor experiences, from the upstate New York reclaimed area to the Pacific Northwest Federal Zone, and locations in the south and their rebellious inhabitants.
This leads to the villains. Their are several throughout the series, from the stone cold sociopath that starts the zombie apocalypse, corrupt wannabe dictators who will stop at nothing to hold onto power and mad max’s who just want to see the world burn. They are fleshed out quite well, especially the doctor who caused the fall of civilization. Scary smart and a stone cold mass murderer are just a few words to describe this individual and is also a threat to Nick and Britt through a good chunk of the series on a very personal basis, and you hope karma comes calling throughout the series.
The narration is performed by Talon Beeson. This is the performance that put him on my radar, and also the performance that I thought was so fantastic he instantly hit my top ten narrators list. He does such a great job bringing each of these characters to life, with a plethora of voices that are unique to each character. He brings such great emotion to the characters, from joy to the depths of despair to a killing rage. It’s haunting in some ways, with the overwhelming horror of the situation the world is in, and he digs in and crushes it.
This series is just so engaging, and really sucks in the reader, it has such a great mix of action and characters and you just don’t want to stop listening. There is also an interesting technique the author uses that seems like inconsistencies, where ages of people changed, or the dog was in some scenes and not in others and various other things that made me realize that it wasn’t inconsistencies due to author error, but character’s lapses in memory because this is a memoir years later, and Nick is an unreliable narrator, trying to remember stuff years later and confusing and forgetting small details. Its really well done in a realistic way. This is a fantastic series of books in one omnibus, and I highly recommend it, especially the audio edition.
9.75 stars out of 10