Book Review: To Sail a Darkling Sea

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A Review of To Sail a Darkling Sea by John Ringo

By Avery Abernethy, 5 March 2014

To Sail a Darkling Sea is the second book by John Ringo in the Dark Tide Rising series.  A zombie apocalypse has been released in the modern world by an unknown group of individuals.  The Smith family, composed of an ex-military father, a mom with an engineering background, and two daughters under the age of sixteen are practical survivalists.  [Stop reading here if you want to avoid spoilers about book one].

At the end of book one the father had reconnected with the tattered remains of US national command authority.  The family spearheaded an effort to clean zombies off of ships in the Atlantic and gradually gather survivors.  The Smiths and a small number of others in the ragtag fleet were immunized against the Zombie plague.  The long run plan was to secure Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where there should be enough equipment to resume making the anti-zombie plague serum.  If serum production is restarted, then the members of the US Navy in uncontaminated attack submarines can be added to the meagre US military forces attempting to retake Earth from the zombie hordes.

The book starts with the “fleet” freeing small towns and ships in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa.  The group traveled to this region to avoid the Caribbean hurricane season and engaged in the first land battles against the zombies, where they attempted to free small, geographically isolated towns on these tiny islands from the mindless horde.

DarklingBut the main story is how a rag-tag militia naval and marine force is being transformed into a regular military force by a bare handful of US Marine and Navy troops lead by Mr. Smith.  The tradeoffs between a professional military and a militia force, and the differences between civilians and members of the military are the primary topics.  I was reminded of the moral and legal difficulties of building a military force from disorganized civilians written about in books as diverse as Starship Troopers and With the Old Breed.

There is plenty of zombie combat.  But the overall military strategy is being driven by weather, logistics, and the difficulties of creating a small professional military force:.  gradually, logistics and military force buildup dominate the narrative.  Interesting and amusing characters populate the book.  The buildup to the first post-apocalyptic Birthday of the Marine Corps Party was most entertaining.

This read like it was setting up a longer series of books.  The focus was less on the wider world or combat developments and more on the differences between civilians, the military, and how the US Constitution and laws work in a catastrophic environment.  As a result, the book has a much slower pace than its predecessor.

I’m hoping this book sets up a far more action packed series of books.  The general topic has been handled better in books about the US Continental Army in history and Starship Troopers in fiction.  This novel is less interesting than the average Ringo novel.  Still, given the zombie apocalypse set in motion by Mr. Ringo, having an effective logistics system and coherent military command and control would be essential to the long run survival of both Wolf Squadron and humanity.

Books in this series:  Under a Graveyard SkyTo Sail a Darkling SeaIslands of Rage and Hope

Avery Abernethy is a Professor of Marketing at Auburn University.  Publishers of science fiction, fantasy, and military history books admire him.  Usually.

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One Response to Book Review: To Sail a Darkling Sea

  1. […] in this series:  Under a Graveyard Sky * To Sail a Darkling Sea * Islands of Rage and […]

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