Reviewed in the United States on May 2, 2021
This is one of those books that starts with an action sequence so intense, so fast, that you are immediately drawn into its pages. Even if you just thought you would have a quick look, you find that you have become glued to the book, having to find out what happens to ‘Wic’ and his team in Iraq.
Just as quickly, you are pulled back to another location, realising that this was a bit of a prequel, giving you some background on the main character, some insight into who the man is, and what he has been through, that he obviously has trauma in his past, suffers from PTSD, but is also a very keen soldier.
The other thing you quickly come to understand about this book, is two things
One, that the Authors write the most extraordinary battle and combat scenes, that are gritty, and brutally intense, but not over-the-top in graphic violence or gore, they are representative of a realistic combat scenario, with so much detail, and such quality, that you really feel like you are standing (or more likely laying on your back or in the foetal position), in the middle of the combat zone feeling the zing of bullets fly past you.
The second thing about this book, is the absolute masterful world building that has gone into developing this story. Whilst for the most part, the world is as we know it, the story is set only a few years from now, so nothing has really changed, the detail and depth of the story that the Authors go into is, in a word, ‘beautiful’. This is what could only be described as a ‘Procedural’ Mil Sci-Fi, and by that, I mean that there is a lot of doctrine, but it is so well done by the Master Gunnery Sgt. On top of that, there are these stunning descriptions of weapons, ammo, aircraft, just everything, with such amazing and intricate detail. And the detail is so multi-faceted, in every aspect of this story.
I don’t want to say the different aspects, as I don’t want to give any spoilers away – (And OMG, there are just so many wicked twists, turns and in your face spoilers!!!) – but needless to say, the world building gives this story an edge that no other Mil Sci-Fi can come close to.
The story follows our main character, Master Gunnery Sgt, Patrick ‘Wic’ Finnegan, a 44yr, soon to retire Marine Raider, who is one of the Elite. Within the first couple of pages/chapters, you really get the feel for just how incredible this guy is as a Marine, but you also get to know that he is a good guy, has his head screwed on right so to speak, is not arrogant about his abilities.
At the start of the book, he is in the Antarctica, leading up a multi-national task force for a secret-squirrel mission, helping out a friend who used emotional blackmail to get him to come and watch over him whilst he ran an experiment.
However, the experiment is something that has been dug up from the cores of a Glacier and has been buried for a LONG time (you know, one of those things that probably should have been left there for a ‘Longer time??’).
Of course, it would be a pretty boring story if nothing happened, and, I have to admit, that it was of course obvious that that things were going to go bad. We know they are going to go bad, we have been here a thousand times before.
I always make the point though, that in this situation, it is not about that we know the good guys are about to have a very bad day, it is about how the Authors deal with this situation, and write it that matters.
And Hopper and Chaney DO NOT disappoint. Having already thrilled us with Ruins of the Galaxy, they seem to be able to take that to new levels, as the start of this book is just exceptional. As I said above, the combat sequences are just mind-blowing. I am not going to give anything away, or discuss this sequence, I really don’t want to give away spoilers, as the Authors have created something special, but if you love Mil Sci-Fi, you just have to read this book for the opening chapters.
From there, the book just gets better.
Wic realises that he has to try and save people, that if he doesn’t a LOT of human beings are going to die, as it appears that the infrastructure, and Government that we have all come to rely upon, as well as things like electricity, phones, cars etc, are all gone at the start of this book. The utter devastation that this has on society as a whole is fascinating to read about, again, Hopper and Chaney are just extraordinary in their ability to capture this type of scenario in such intricate, brutal detail, and with what seems to be so much realism. You can really see things unfolding like this as you read about it, like you are reading a news article about a catastrophic incident, not just a story.
The group that Wic has with him (again, I am not going to go into details as I just don’t want spoilers), are such an amazing group of people, each of them so true-to-life, both heroic, and with flaws, but things you can totally understand (and although I am not ex-military, but an ex-Police Officer, there are aspects of this story that I can relate to, and Hopper and Chaney have written these with so much detail, not only making them realistic – so brutally realistic – but also handling them with a lot of respect). Each of the characters are written so well, each of them is so realistic, that they could actually be based on a real person, as their personalities are just so good.
One of the really great things about this book, and something that makes it a lot of fun to listen to (after all, this is a highly realistic combat story, it could get rather brutal after a while), is the quality (and quantity if I am to be honest), of the humour, and sarcastic responses that fly around between everyone in the book.
As with all people in this situation, they use humour to deflect from what they are doing, making jokes, giving each other a hard time, nicknames, etc. And RotE is no exception, as there is a constant stream of banter that is just hilarious. This is a book (especially if you are listening to the incredible Audible version done by R.C. Bray), that should have a warning on it, ‘Do not read or listen to in a public place – people will stare when you laugh hysterically’ (And trust me, when you are in the middle of a supermarket with a wireless earbud in, laughing to the point of tears at something said, that no one else knows what is going on, people actually leave the aisles around you!!) There are so many hysterically funny bits in this book, you will be laughing like a hyena. Along with this, Hopper and Chaney make reference to numerous ‘Easter Eggs’ during the book – references to other Authors stories (KTF!!!), as well as Movies and Pop Culture, the Audiobook could make a fun drinking game with a group of friends (with a non-alcoholic drink of course, I am not condoning alcohol *GRIN*) Seriously, the Easter Eggs make it a real blast, as it just adds a bit of bonus fun trying to spot them all.
This is one of those epic sagas that thankfully on Audible it’s digital, because I will be listening to it again and again.
There are a lot of good Mil Sci-Fi books out there, I will be the first one to admit this, as it is one of my favourite genres. But there are very few, that even come close to the absolute Brilliance that is Ruins of the Earth, and if you add in the Narration that has been done by R.C. Bray – then this is easily the best Mil Sci-Fi book of 2021, it is just pure genius!!