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A relatively action-packed prequel to a long-running men’s adventure/post-apocalyptic survival series.

The book begins with the world falling into chaos.  Multiple wars involving nuclear weapons begin in the Middle East and elsewhere. Eventually, the missiles start landing in the United States, destroying a number of cities.  (Technobabble is kept to a minimum here; frankly, I’d have liked to see a little more specificity on what was going on elsewhere in the world.)
Fortunately, an eccentric movie producer has constructed an underground compound in remote Minnesota and has recruited a hundred or so competent individuals to join him in rebuilding civilization.  Just one problem: they’re scattered all over the country and have to make their way to the relative safety of the compound.  The first half of the book follows the adventures of a handful of these individuals as they make their way through an increasingly chaotic (and deadly) American society in the process of breaking down.  The author manages to end each chapter on a cliffhanger, which lends a sense of urgency to the book.  Characterization isn’t bad, certainly well within the “standard parameters” of typical men’s adventure series.
The second half of the book — once everyone arrives at the compound — is a little less interesting.  Things become a little on the cheesy side when the producer begins describing his plan for the group’s future, suggesting that they each take a title (Leader, Warrior, Tiller, etc.) and each of the Warriors takes on a codename (Thor, Solo, etc.) that they use exclusively from then on.
Here’s the silliest part: the character Thor is a nearly seven foot tall construction worker who (along with his family) worships the Norse gods and he manages to get a warhammer that can literally throw lightning bolts.  Honestly, I wish these elements hadn’t been included because they ramp up the silliness factor in an otherwise straight-forward adventure novel.
This book is a newly written sequel to a long-running (27 or so books) adventure series published from the mid-’80s through the early ’90s.  The first chapter of the first of these is included as a teaser and I was somewhat surprised at what I read there.
That book is set a century after this one, with an entirely new cast of characters.  Their access to technology appears to be somewhat more limited, understandably, and the landscape seems to be peopled by various mutants and strange phenomena.  I’m intrigued by that premise — it reminds me strongly of Sterling Lanier’s Hiero’s Journey and The Unforsaken Hiero as well as the old role-playing game Gamma World.
The book wasn’t bad, as long as what you’re looking for is a fun, light read.  I have a few misgivings about reading a prequel to a series that will be set a century after this one with an entirely new cast of characters and setting, but I was intrigued enough by the book and the sample chapter for the first book in the series that I do plan to pick up the next book (entitled Endworld: The Fox Run).
3.5 stars out of 5
Review copyright 2009 J. Andrew Byers