Apocalypse Dawn is a military spin-off of the (in?)famous Left Behind series. It’s also one of the most blatant “this is a tie-in potboiler” books I’ve read. It’s been sitting on my shelf for years and I’m planning on giving it away (along with a lot of other books I don’t intend to take with me when I move) soon. So as it fits the theme, I figured I might as well reread and review it here before I do so.
The plot is more “military thriller” than pure “technothriller”. So it’s less Tom Clancy and more well-John Wayne. When viewed from that perspective it and especially its characters are very, very cliche.
What’s interesting about the description of military equipment isn’t the rivet-counting. That’s there but mostly mostly tame for someone who’s read a lot of military thrillers, with the only issues being annoying but forgivable things like caliber mistakes (the most common one is using Western calibers for Soviet equipment-like 105mm barrels on T-55s and 20mm ones on MiGs). No, what’s interesting is that it really feels like the work of someone who approached it with a paycheck attitude, took genre cliches, and researched juuuust enough.
There’s descriptions, infodumps about the weapons that clearly show “I read the reference material”, but enough discrepancies that show it’s a sort of “get the technical ingredients without the meal.”
It’s Army Rangers being deployed to take on a mechanized Syrian force that never attacks in any quantity bigger than what could serve as an action-hero set-piece. So M82 rifles and 40mm grenades have an awfully optimistic effect against enemy armored vehicles, you always get only a few tanks, and everything seems to be like a pop culture-friendly weapon (for instance, every single artillery rocket is a “Scud”.) And ASM hits from weapons light enough to be carried on “MiGs” cause Abrams tanks to not only be destroyed, but flip over. And the ranks and command structure are all wrong, etc…
There really isn’t much point in arguing “plausibility” when the story explicitly takes place in the Book of Revelation. Or so it would seem. The issue isn’t with the Rapture, it’s with everything else.
The Rangers are in Turkey near the Syrian border doing what a brigade from the 82nd Airborne would normally do (out of pure rushed-in desperation) or what a cavalry force/motorized infantry unit would do (if given any time to prepare).
This sort of reminds me of an annotated version of the Far Side, one of my favorite comic strips. In it Larson explained with some bemusement that after making a comic with mosquitoes, he got letters explaining it was female mosquitoes that bite unlike the husband mosquito in the comic itself. Larson’s response was he knew that, but that they didn’t have a problem with the anthromorphic cartoon parts.
I think that readers can accept big implausible divergences as part of the story setup easily, but small ones get nitpicked. So thus it is with the apocalypse and the Ranger deployment.
So there’s two main plots. The first is the conflict in southeastern Turkey (With a lot of hindsight, it feels so weird having Syria as an intact, conventional threat of a state), and the second is the main character’s wife fighting charges (she was trying to keep a kid from falling, he fell off but was raptured before he hit the ground, and they think she kidnapped him even though every single young child in the whole world disappeared.) Pretty much everything with the main character’s wife feels dull and just gets in the way, with very little attempt to even establish a solid connection or link between her plot and the military one.
The military plot is kind of just an array of set pieces that fumble around between infodumps and what looks “cool.” The religious plot is both (obviously) prominent and feels like it was shoved in. They come to a head when the military protagonist is saved at the end through ridiculously obvious divine intervention.
About the only good bit of characterization is Odom’s writing of the main series villain, Antichrist Nicolae Carpathia. (As an aside, I hate that name, it’s like calling someone Saddam Euphrates). That character is written with an appropriate slimy slickness that suits him well, arguably better than in the original books.
The Only Score That Really Matters
This, by itself, is a mediocre tie-in. It avoids the controversy around the actual series simply by being nothing but a phoned-in cash grab to maybe, possibly, broaden the audience just a little bit.
What I think makes it slightly interesting is not how it’s an exercise in writing for a paycheck. There’s absolutely no shame in doing that, and it’s not exactly unique.
It’s how it have a “51%” approach to just checking off all the necessary boxes. Military action with Rangers and infodumped equipment-check. Family drama-check. Christian religious themes-check. Not really much of a need to tie them together or sharpen them as long as they’re there at all. I’ve read other tie-ins, and most of them aren’t as blatantly going through the motions as this. Some of what I’ve read (and even reviewed) has been leaders in a genre. This is a genre follower that deserved the obscurity it got.