Jack Hunt’s Dark America
With our overzealous dependence on technology it shouldn’t come as a surprise innumerable novels populate the bookshelves revolving around post-apocalyptic scenarios depriving us of our electric marvels. The most common take on the situation comes in the form of an EMP strike which annihilates an entire country’s grid, if not the entire world’s. Different authors focus on different aspects of this sort of scenario, ranging from political and military considerations to the effects it would have on natural and animal life. In his first book of the series, Days of Panic (EMP Survival Vol. 1), Jack Hunt decides to place the spotlight on the human factor of the equation, pondering how individuals would be able to survive when the city that never sleeps finally slumbers.
The premise of the book is actually rather simple: an EMP strike devastates America’s electric grid, sending everyone reeling back into the stone age. Panic begins to mount quite rapidly and everyone seems to have a different idea on how to best survive this. We are introduced to four strangers from different paths of life: a sales representative, a bike messenger, a homeless man and a convict. Despite their vast dissimilarities they come to the conclusion their best chance of survival lies with each other. Tensions continue continue to escalate, and soon it becomes obvious staying in the city might prove fatal for everyone. Unfortunately for them, finding a way out isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be, demanding many risks and sacrifices from people who might not be willing to make them after all.
With this being a character-driven story I would like to start by focusing on the people we follow throughout the book and the others they encounter along the way. For starters, I’d like to commend Jack Hunt on managing to create a protagonist who feels, thinks and acts exactly like the most regular of people would. Many authors often have trouble creating and maintaining such characters for more often than not they end up being transformed into superheroes so they might rise to whatever incredible occasion is before them. This isn’t the case here, not for the protagonist or anyone else for that matter.
Jack Hunt really hit the nail on the head and made all of them into flawed human beings desperately trying to make the best of a situation they have absolutely no idea how to deal with. Their reactions are all very believable and ultimately help us build an easy rapport with each and every one of them. There is something relatable about each of the four protagonists, some characteristics making their humanity stand out. We end up caring for them, fear for their lives when they’re in danger, and even long to see once again some of the random strangers they came across along the way. While their world might lie in ruins, the humans living in it stand resilient as ever.
Dealing with an Apocalypse
The author has given quite a bit of thought as to how life would work after such an apocalypse and spares us no details from his vivid imagination. There are some very interesting and thought-provoking moments where he describes daily life shortly after the cataclysm and makes us realize how much we rely on technology for everything and how much effort we would have to put in without it. The deeper you get into the story, the greater your curiosity about how different people would employ varying methods to carve a place for themselves in this brave new world.
Beyond the act of physical survival, I also found myself heavily enthralled with the psychological aspect of it, how a human mind would need to re-arrange itself to bear the burden of an apocalypse. We witness numerous manifestations of people’s internal reactions to the general state of affairs, and all of them feel extremely authentic and palpable, whether they stem from the realms of fear, desperation, acceptance, joy or even freedom. There are quite a lot of potential implications about the nature of humans and how our current social structures are affecting it, enough to keep you pondering well after you reach the end.
The Final Verdict
While the topic of EMP apocalypses have been broached widely in the past, Days of Panic is, in my opinion, one of the more entertaining and thought-provoking novels on the subject. Jack Hunt has done a superb job at moving the story along in an engrossing and energetic manner all while profoundly developing his characters as well as the world around them. This is about as good of a start as you can have for a book series, and I feel anyone interested in post-apocalyptic fiction will enjoy what I feel is an under-appreciated stroke of genius.