Book Review: Under a Graveyard Sky

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A Review of Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo

Review by Avery Abernethy, 5 February 2014

John Ringo’s work is well known to many wargamers.  He has many bestselling books with large amounts of tactical and strategic combat including the popular Posleen series, the Council War Series, and even an “X-Files meets the deadly soccer mom from Mississippi series” (Princess of Wands and Queen of Wands).  A veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, Ringo’s work has appealed to many readers interested in action-packed combat.

graveyard1Under a Graveyard Sky is a survivalist novel of a zombie apocalypse.   Although I like post-apocalyptic fiction, zombies have never held my interest., as they are the epitome of mindless, tactically brain-dead opponents.  The whole idea of a zombie apocalypse has always seemed so weird and boring that I bought the book in hardback and let it sit for five months unopened.  I shouldn’t have waited so long, as Ringo has actually written an interesting, post-apocalyptic zombie book.

In Under a Graveyard Sky, the zombies arise from a combined bio-war agent that has presumably been spread by a radical green group, but the villain is never clearly identified.  The plague was spread with a time release component, and of course the perpetrators never issue press releases.  So the individuals responsible for the zombie plague are unknown to both the characters and the reader.  Gradually the world realizes that a deadly plague has started.  Corporations, drug syndicates, the Center for Disease Control and independent scientists are all racing to find a cure for the bio-war zombie agent before civilization collapses.

The book centers on the Smiths, “rational survivalists” made up of a father, mother and  two teenage daughters.  Mr. Smith is a former Australian military man who became a naturalized US citizen and married an engineer.  They have a “go-to-hell” plan for most any contingency.  Mr. Smith’s brother is also ex-military and working in high level corporate security.  Mr. Smith gets the emergency call and the family makes its well-rehearsed move to survive.

The book has a large component of hard fiction.  Ringo consulted with many scientists and there are plot details on how vaccines are developed.  The heart of the book is not zombie combat, but how society reacts to a collapse of order.  The latter half of the book focuses mostly on how a small group led by the Smiths start a seaborne rescue operation of survivors off the US East Coast.  The human reactions to the collapse of civilization and the resulting struggle for a purpose in life is another major component of the book.   There is lots of zombie killing – but the psychological and societal reactions of individuals and small groups is the heart of the book.

Unfortunately I cannot provide more details without spoiling the plot.  But I highly recommend Under a Graveyard Sky.  I read the entire book in less than three days.  I lost sleep due to my need to read “just one more chapter.”  If you like Ringo’s other work, post-apocolyptic fiction, or zombies – I highly recommend this book.  And as a bonus, there is a sequel coming out very soon. 

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.  His poker, hunting, and tailgate buddies are amazed at the number of books he buys.     

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