As of this date (1/12/2017), the stand-alone novella "Scorpius Rising" for Kindle is available on Amazon.com for $1.99.
The first novel in the series, Mercury Striking, is due 1/26/16 with Nora's best friend, Lynn Harmony, as its heroine. I am hoping that Zanetti allows Lynn to continue to be independent, competent, and in charge of her own life whether she is in a romantic relationship or not.
With nothing but rumors to lead her, Lynne Harmony has trekked across a nightmare landscape to find one man—a mysterious, damaged legend who protects the weak and leads the strong. He’s more than muscle and firepower—and in post-plague L.A., he’s her only hope. As the one woman who could cure the disease, Lynne is the single most volatile—and vulnerable—creature in this new and ruthless world. But face to face with Jax Mercury…Danger has never looked quite so delicious.
> The Brigade: This group, headed by Deacan McDougall, is tasked with making sure that nuclear reactors are shut down safely.
> The Elite Force: This group, headed by the new Vice President, Greg Lake, is tasked with finding and capturing Dr. Lynne Harmony.
|Jax's Rules for |
Surviving the Apocalypse
> Tace Justice: a former military field medic who is now Vanguard's chief physician
> Wyatt Quaid: a former professional football player (49ers) who has learned to be an excellent soldier. He is Jax's second in command and functions as the heart of the compound—the person people go to for counseling and advice.
> Raze (Razor) Shadow: mysterious new Vanguard warrior who appeared one day, fully armed, and joined the crew—He refuses to talk about his past or his reasons for joining Jax's group. Raze's story will be told in the next book, Shadow Falling.
> Sami: supposedly a former LAPD cop (but probably not) who has excellent hand-to-hand fighting skills and who becomes one of Lynne's friends and supporters, even though she once had a major crush on Jax.
> Lena: a young girl who gives meaningful gifts to residents of Vanguard—Each gift turns out to be related to a future event in that person's life.
> Cruz: a bad guy—leader of the Twenty gang, the gang that Jax belonged to back in his younger days. Cruz has a major grudge against Jax because Jax went off to the Army and left him behind in prison. Jax has a grudge against Cruz because Cruz lured Marcus into his gang while Jax was overseas, leading to Marcus's shooting death.
> Jax's efforts to find enough Vitamin B to keep his Vanguard citizens plague free—The only fact that the survivors know for sure about the Scorpius plague is that Vitamin B injections keep it somewhat under control and may help infected victims survive without becoming Rippers.
> Lynne's efforts to find the secret lab—Lynne needs the research papers and lab equipment from the secret lab to figure out a way to make human bodies create their own Vitamin B without having to undergo constant injections.
> The U.S. president's efforts to capture Lynne—It would be a spoiler to reveal anything more about his part of the plot, but I will say that the President's motives are very personal and relate to events that took place in the plot of "Scorpius Rising."
As the book ends, some parts of the conflict are resolved, but bits of new information open up new questions (The Bunker? Jax's brother? The cure?) and problems for Jax and his crew (the fact that a dangerous villain is still at large). It isn't exactly a cliff-hanger ending, but it definitely leads into the next book, which will feature Raze Shadow and Vivienne Wellington.
Zanetti has created an inventive world here with an emphasis on the interactions and coping methods of a diverse group of survivors. I like the fact that the "zombie" factor isn't the main focus of the plot. This is not a Walking Dead kind of book—no blood-and-guts scenes of the Rippers attacking people. Although the Rippers definitely pose a threat, Zanetti keeps them lurking in the background. Zanetti tells a compelling story that features a pair of charismatic lead lovers, lots of action and suspense, and a nice range of interesting supporting characters. Lynne is a terrific heroine, maintaining her independence, courage, and tenacity even in the face of her intense attraction to Jax and her fears for her future. Even though Jax is a stereotypical über-alpha hero with a chip on his shoulder, a tragic past, and a heart of gold, he is so fierce and intense that he commands your full attention in every scene in which he appears. This is a great start to a new series, and I'm looking forward to reading Raze's story in August.
I do have two minor nitpicks that I'll put here at the very end so that you can either read them or ignore them:
1. At one point, Jax explains that "Fish food held plenty of antibiotics, and most survivors didn't know that fact." Wrong. Some people sell fish antibiotics (legal only by prescription), but regular fish food does not contain antibiotics. Fish food antibiotics is a survivalist urban legend that doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Some companies sell aquarium antibiotics online or in pet stores, but there are no guarantees that their products meet any medical standards. In fact, many of them are made up primarily of cornstarch or other non-medical products and contain little or no antibiotics. They are definitely risky—either inadequate or possibly harmful—for human consumption. Click HERE to read more on this subject.
2. Vitamin B is not just one single vitamin. In fact, there are eight different B vitamins, each found in different types of food and each affecting the human body in a different manner: B1 (thiamine); B2 (riboflavin); B3 (niacin); B5 (pantothenic acid); B6; B7 (biotin); B12; folic acid. I have to assume that when Zanetti refers to Vitamin B, she means Vitamin B-Complex, a combination of the vitamins listed above. In its injectable form, B-Complex must be kept refrigerated—an impossibility in Zanetti's post-apocalyptic world. Also: why do the vitamins have to be injected? Why not just swallow the vitamins in pill form. The pills would be much more plentiful and easier to find than syringes and vials of liquid vitamins, which would be found only in pharmacies, hospitals, or doctors' offices. Click HERE for more information on Vitamin B-Complex injections, including a list of severe side effects. Improbably, none of the side effects appear to have occurred among the Vanguard citizens. I realize that I'm being picky here, but it seems to me that Zanetti should have been more careful when she came up with her plague cure—or at least she should have done more research.
UPDATE: Zanetti finally explains this issue in the third novel (Justice Ascending): “The shot is a combination of all the vitamin Bs, but there’s a stronger percentage of B6 and B12.”
FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Mercury Striking is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are entirely my own.
Before the Scorpius Syndrome tore through North America and nearly wiped out the population, Vivienne Wellington was the FBI’s best profiler. The bacteria got her anyway. But she survived. She recovered. And when she woke up from a drug-nightmare of captivity, her trust in her fellow man had gone from shaky at best to nonexistent. Her mysterious rescuer wants to convince her he’s the exception. But no matter how tempting he is, with his angel’s eyes and devil’s tongue, Vinnie knows she shouldn’t trust him.
Vinnie is a former FBI psychiatrist who is an expert in profiling sociopaths. Ever since she recovered from her bout with the Scorpius plague, she has been hallucinating, hearing voices in her head, and having some semi-psychic experiences—all of which make her fear that the combination of the Scorpius bacterium and the drugs that Atherton pumped into her have permanently altered her brain chemistry to the point that she is slowly going insane. She is insecure and fearful that the Vanguard group won't accept her, but she keeps hoping that they will so that she will finally have a home and a family in these troubled times.
Everyone is suspicious of Raze—and with good reason. He showed up at Vanguard in the first novel with information on the location of President Atherton. Jax is worried about how Raze got that information. Is he a spy for Atherton or the Mercs? What dark secrets is he hiding? Then, Raze partially redeemed himself by helping Vanguard rescue Lynne and Vinnie from Atherton's compound. Currently, Jax is willing to keep Raze on at Vanguard, but only if he explains every aspect of his hidden agenda, which Raze refuses to do. Early on, we learn that the Mercenaries (Mercs) are holding Raze's sister Maureen (Moe) and will release her only if Raze delivers Vinnie to them. Raze always believed that he would do anything to save his sister...right up until the moment he met Vinnie and fell so hard for her. Now, he is torn between his sister and his true love. How can he save them both?
Adding to the complexity of the plot is a new group within Vanguard: the Pure—uninfected men, women, and children who are being led by a charlatan who calls himself Reverend Lighton. This story line is responsible for most of the implausibilities in this book. For example, Lighton and his group manage to steal weapons and vital supplies from Vanguard's warehouses but Jax and his people don't realize anything is missing until long after the fact. When Jax finds out what Lighton has done, he says to Tace, "We've just started keeping track of weapons, and our system sucks." There is no way that a military man like Jax would fail to keep a detailed inventory of all supplies and weapons and a tight schedule of guards to watch over them. So this part of the story line makes absolutely no sense. Also, Lighton and his people have been living in Vanguard for months, but—again—Jax and his top lieutenants are clueless about their existence until Lighton walks in and demands territory and assistance. None of this is believable. Oddly, late in the book, Vinnie remarks that Jax "kept his warehouses locked and guarded." If that's true, how did the Reverend break in?
One purpose served by the Reverend and his group is to serve as a contrast to Jax and Raze in their treatment of women. Within the Pure group, the men are fully in charge and the women are completely subservient in every way. At first glance, you might say that the same is true with Jax and Raze, but Zanetti includes a scene in which Vinnie and Lynne discuss living with guys who spank them and tie them to radiators when they deem it necessary. Vinnie says, "It's odd...they're over-the-top bossy when it comes to safety. We should be burning our bras and shooting these guys...Yet they have no trouble working side by side with female soldiers." Lynne responds, "When there's time for thought and debate, fairness and reason win out, but in crisis situations their atavistic sides trump everything else." Vinnie grins: "So the more backward they act, the more they care?" Another area in which the men are in charge is in the bedroom, and both women are fine with that. Lynne sums up the situation: "Those big bad men do treat women as equals. Well, ones they don't date....As opposed to the creepy way the Pure seems to be treating women." As I read this scene, I had to wonder if Zanetti wrote it in response to criticism from readers about the close-to-abusive "obey me or else" manner in which Jax treated Lynne in Mercury Striking.
The novel ends, as usual, in a major showdown as Vanguard goes up against the Mercs to rescue Raze's sister, but then Zanetti throws in an explosive curveball to complicate the situation. In the few scenes that feature Maureen and her captor, Greyson Storm, head of the Mercs, we soon figure out that they are not exactly enemies, but more like frenemies on their way to becoming lovers. I'm sure that we'll get their book (Storm Raging? Storm Surging?) in the near future, but the next one belongs to Tace and Sami.
This novel continues the series story line regarding the importance of finding the Bunker, and it adds new people and new alliances to the mix. Zanetti is a good story teller, even with her occasional misfires (like the Reverend and the warehouses). The suspense and drama keep the tension so tight that it's hard to put the book down once you dive in. Although I'm not sure that Zanetti was entirely successful in making her point about her heroes' treatment of women, I do give her credit for putting forth an explanation. Props to her because she is the only author I've seen who has done this.
In regard to the all-important vitamin B that the Scorpio survivors need to keep themselves alive, it appears that B12 is the one that is critical. Lynne mentions several times that squid and octopus are high in vitamin B (they're high in B12), and she's hoping that the government has stored squid somewhere—perhaps in the Bunker. That takes me back to my argument (in my review of Mercury Striking) that vitamin B12 should be very easy for Vanguard to find in large quantities in all of the abandoned drug stores and grocery stores and health food stores in Los Angeles. Vanetti still hasn't explained why the B12 has to be injected rather than taken in pill form. I really wish that she had thought this through more thoroughly and had come up with a different, more plausible, curative drug. FYI: The foods with the highest levels of B12 are mollusks (squid, octopus, clams, oysters); beef liver; and certain fish (mackerel, salmon, tuna, sardines). So why aren't the survivors heading towards the ocean for fish? Or to the countryside for cattle?
EXCERPT: Click HERE to go to this novel's Amazon.com page and click on the cover art to read an excerpt.
FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Shadow Falling is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are entirely my own.
NOVEL 3: Justice Ascending (Due 1/31/17)
To read an excerpt from Justice Ascending, click HERE to go to the novel’s Amazon.com page and click on the cover art.
FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Justice Ascending is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are entirely my own.