If you haven’t read Daniel Humphreys’ A Place Outside the Wild, go read my review of that book. I can’t really talk about its sequel, A Place Called Hope, without spoiling major surprises in the first book. And A Place Outside the Wild may be the best zombie apocalypse book I have ever read. Humphreys incorporates the familiar canon and builds on it, both in service of the meticulously plotted story. Another highlight is the attention to detail regarding everything from guns to farming—an attention to detail in service of building narrative tension.
My only quibble with both books is that the dialogue—especially the manly banter—is a bit clunky. (The actual presence of manly banter, on the other hand, is nice to see.)
A Place Called Hope is every bit as good as A Place Outside the Wild. It may not be able to deliver the same shocks as its predecessor, but Humphreys continues to surprise us, and there are some awesome action set pieces.
Major SPOILERS for A Place Outside the Wild, and very minor SPOILERS for A Place Called Hope below the fold.
Most of A Place Outside the Wild takes place in a single post-apocalyptic settlement. It ends with the residents naming it “Hope.” Hence the name for the sequel. But it is a bit of a misnomer—very little of A Place Called Hope actually takes place in Hope. Miles, the main character from the first book, and most of the rest of the residents of Hope only make cameo appearances. This is very much the story of Pete and Charlie and the military (and one other).
At the end of A Place Outside the Wild, Miles’ uncle Pete, a retired Marine, accepts a new commission, two missing legs notwithstanding (I’m reading Myke Cole’s Siege Line now, so that’s a couple books in a row featuring amputees in combat roles). Charlie is a settler known for his ability in the wild as a scavenger and for being immune to the zombie “virus.” After being exposed to the 2.0 version, he has regained the full ability to speak. Pete pulls him along for their mission.
One of the big reveals from A Place Outside the Wild is that the military (mainly the Navy) has survived. The military has a big problem. After eight years, it is getting very hard to keep helicopters in the air. They have a plan to address the problem that involves a mission to recover airships in California.
The really big reveal from A Place Outside the Wild was that the nanite-driven zombies are changing. A Place Outside Hope shows that process is still ongoing. Things are going to get really ugly.
Humphreys Z-Day books are a counterweight to more cynical works like The Walking Dead. The humans in A Place Called Hope are almost always the good guys. If you are going to set a work eight years after the zombie apocalypse, it makes sense that “[r]aider crews [are] the exception rather than the rule” because “groups like that [are] more likely to burn out than thrive.” (I think that a stable settlers/nomads dynamic could develop, but nomad raiders can’t exist without good guy settlers.) The military are both the good guys and survived at much higher rates than civilians (or at least the Navy did). Both of these are not just plausible but probable.
We do get to see some raiders through the eyes of a new POV character, Sandy. Sandy is a microbiologist, and his chapters revolve around him joining a settlement a couple hundred days after Z-Day. The window into the months directly after Z-Day are nice since the first book jumped straight to eight years after.
With the increased role for the military, A Place Called Hope is almost a military thriller/SF. It has a lot in common with the Myke Cole book I’m reading now. It also reminds me a lot of Brad Thor’s books, especially Code of Conduct. Thor could have written the line, “[I]n one fell swoop, the scientists had rendered the Holocaust and Holodomor mere footnotes.” (Like Thor, Humphreys wears his politics on his sleeve, but he’s right to compare the two, and the sentence has a nice ring to it.)
Thor would also appreciate Humphreys’ attention to military detail. There is a much warranted knock on World War Z. I very briefly made the same critique in my review. Humphreys says it better than I ever could:
“[S]he’d never forgotten the annoyance and derision she’d felt when she’d read the author’s description of a battle in which the army of zombies had marched forward, unaffected by modern ordnance. The venerable .50 BMG was officially an anti-material round, for God’s sake.”
If you want to see what modern military ordnance would do to zombies, A Place Called Hope is your chance.
I can’t wait for book 3.
Disclosure: Humphreys sent me a review copy.
H.P. is an academic, attorney, and “author” (well, blogger) who will read and write about anything interesting he finds in the used bookstore wherever he happens to be for the moment. He can be found on Twitter @tuesdayreviews and at Every Day Should Be Tuesday.