One of the joys of Kindle is discovering books that I’d thrown on there in a sale but forgotten about; First Activation being one of them.
The story starts out with an interesting premise that does provide a pretty good hook. Ex-Army brothers Harry and Jack are travelling across the Atlantic on holiday but, after experiencing turbulence and finally landing in New York discover the city has been devastated by a strange affliction that leads survivors to claim a life before committing suicide. It’s an interesting take on the classic post-apocalyptic scenario and I did find myself wanting to read on to find out the cause of this.
First Activation is a short but pacy read. It leads straight into a cliffhanger that leads onto the sequel. The sense of atmosphere and impending doom does convey the severity and desperation of the situation. Accordingly, things are not as inexplicable as the party ventures around the devastation of the United States – in the second half it’s quickly revealed that a global conspiracy that promises to re-incarnate humanity from the ashes of destruction. It’s a bit trite and to be expected, almost, but the buildup is exhilarating enough that the revelation is justified.
The characters of Harry and Jack as joint protagonists are the most realised, and after reading the background of the authors, it’s clear that there’s a lot of inspiration from the authors’ real-world experiences in the Army. It was particularly interesting to see Jack’s psychological tension over the various horrors that the group is faced with (almost par for the course in a post-apocalypse). There’s a wide perception that military guys just ‘man up and get on with it’ so seeing Jack’s humanity poking through that perception was good to see. I can identify that, throughout the horrific scenes that a post-apocalyptic scenario would bring about, the affect on the survivors would be real. It’s an aspect to post-apocalyptic fiction that I feel is important to emphasise, but equally important to not overlook. First Activation succeeds in the former; the plot moves so quickly that there isn’t time to dwell on it too long.
Other characters are less well-developed, though there is a sense of connection between them. Unfamiliarity between the members of the group rightly seeds suspicion, along with the inability to trust anyone at face value, lest they be a psychotic killer, but there is a gradual sense of camaraderie and bonding, and during the dramatic scenes in the second half, there’s some surprising and sudden occurrences.
Overall, though First Activation wasn’t a terrible book, if a bit derivative of a lot of post-apocalyptic plot tropes. It’s almost too short – about 200 pages, and I feel that the atmosphere and characters could’ve been fleshed out more if the plot had slowed down a bit and allowed itself to expand with a bit of breathing space. However, I felt the writing wasn’t terrible, though the conclusion seems to be a little hackneyed, I am looking forward to seeing how this mystery is thwarted in the next instalment.
Buy First Activation on Amazon Kindle UK