Sign in to follow this  
oregonchick

When Survival Fiction Gets It Wrong

Recommended Posts

We've had a long-running thread on survival fiction, and recently the point has been made that while some of them have great prepping tips and useful ideas, almost all of them also show the characters doing things that would surely fail or kill someone in real life. Some of the complaints that come up:

 

  • Deus ex machina (Latin, used to refer to a situation that seems impossible but is suddenly and unexpectedly fixed by a contrived outside force - in other words, the characters are lucky instead of smart)
  • Unrealistic military action (for example, taking solo action when most operate by the "two is one, one is none" rule, poor planning/execution of maneuvers, bad/unclear decision-making)
  • Magic weaponry (not literally magical, but of the never-ending bullets/"so easy a child can kill a bad guy the first time she fires it" variety)
  • ...and so on

 

 

So which survival books have you read that made you think, "That would NEVER work?" Was there a plotline that you thought was utterly ridiculous? Did you ever have the characters plan something that you thought would kill them all? Tell us about it here - what was wrong, and what you'd do different in real life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, OC. I'll play.

 

Right off the top of my head - the series the Discovery Channel ran (the colony??) drove me NUTS! They wasted a couple of DAYS building an 'eye in the sky'! Good Grief, what a waste of time. Also the bad guys were incredibly inept. Any series desire to take the warehouse succeeds without much effort at all. That and their randomly assembled group included a physician, a couple of engineers, a construction boss, etc. REALLY? This is your "RANDOM" group? Totally unrealistic and really bad advice - the 'good guys' stole food from other survivors? THEY became the bad guys rather quickly. I was more than a little disgusted with the entire thing.

 

More later but I'll give others a chance to weigh in first.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read a really bad book entitled Aftermath that I picked up on Amazon. It was supposed to be about a massive earthquake in California and the efforts of locals to bring order out of chaos but the story soon spun out of control. One of the ways our "heroes" got it wrong was the good guys who survived the disaster, after no one came to help them, decided to build a walled city with tall metal walls. Then, when thousands of raiders showed up, they hundled inside their walls and got pinned down while the bad guys blew the front gate with a car bomb and hand to hand fighting and slaughter ensued. I guess this really misses Oregonchick's point because the their strategy went so wrong, but I imagine someone reading this might think, "Well, that was the only thing they could do".

 

Instead, the defenders, who heard rumors for weeks the bad guys were coming, should have been ambushing the raiders the whole time and focused their attacks on the vehicles the raiders were using. Somehow, they managed to get surprised by an attacking force in the thousands, so obviously they didn't have any type of watch or early warning system on the only road they raiders could be using, but they did take time and resources to string security cameras around the walls, which the raiders took out within minutes of the attack starting. The sad thing about this book is the writing was decent but the author knew so little about anything from firearms to foraging to even simple survival methods that I felt embarassed for him. Anyone taking survivor tips from this guy would be dead the first time they set foot outside their comfy Starbucks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I know I'll come up with lots of these. The first one that popped into mind is Land, a Stranded Novel by Theresa Shaver. The premise is interesting - a couple of teachers are taking students from Canada on a trip to Disneyland. While at the park, an EMP event wipes out all communications in Northern America. It gets kind of screwy from there:

 

The group divides into three separate groups - 5 who plan to travel overland to get home, 5 who plan to go by sea, and 5 who want to get to the Canadian Embassy and hope to find help there. The one adult who has prepping knowledge thinks the embassy group is doomed to failure but chooses to go with them, leaving the two groups heading north to fend for themselves with no adults to be found. She gives decent advice about gathering all the cash they can and loading up on supplies while people will still accept cash/checks, but c'mon. First, to think a prepper would deliberately choose the least likely to succeed option is laughable. Then to think that any teacher or responsible adult would think, "Now that the world's falling apart, we should send our charges out without any supervision or assistance" is utterly ridiculous.

 

The land group helps people out as they go along, benefiting from implied karmic kindness along the way. They have a huge journey ahead of them, but take time to assist others, share resources/ideas, etc. with people along the way. There's this whole sideline about how the girls bake biscuits and share baggies of them with people they meet, because everyone likes you better if you give them biscuits! Yes, we don't waive a truce flag or think either defensively or offensively; instead, we just show people that we've got some good bakers and they'll leave us alone.

 

They encounter a biker gang and challenge them on multiple occasions, getting captured and then besting them in their own lair largely because one girl knew some gymnastics and most of the gang decided to go raiding for beer or something before coming back to "party" with the girls. Later, they engage in a showdown on the outskirts of a town where the sheriff 1. knows about the gang and 2. doesn't believe them that the gang is in pursuit and therefore 3. doesn't assist. So these five teenagers - using automatic weapons they only recently found - pull a Rambo and kill them all, and then the sheriff and town are pleased as punch to welcome them.

 

I had actually been intrigued with the idea of an overland journey for a group because of the vivid descriptions given novels by Susan Gregerson. But this? There were a few ideas that were useful, but they were buried in so much garbage that you'd never be able to find them. The book was somewhat fun to read, but it did make me literally laugh in a few places because it was just SOOO ludicrous.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oregonchick, I got you. Land was a lot of fun but totally full of cr@p when survival is at stake. Of course, if you want some really bad survival advice, you have to look no further than most zombie books, especially those written by authors who are scared to death of those "bullet-shootie-thingies". And their revolvers with the clips. Can't forget those.

 

By the way, anybody crazy enough to wade into a horde of zombies armed with a double barreled shotgun has to be awarded a special literary version of a Darwin Award.

 

The dumbest thing I can think of recently was in Mad Swine by Steve Pajack where, the "good guys" are being confronted by the "bad guys" (their neighbors who are raiders and responsible for killing one of the good guys already). The bad guys are outnumbered fifty to one and still have the gall to promise the murder and torture of the "good guys" if they fail to surrender. So the good guys sit on their hands and watch the bad guys walk away, fretting over what to do. Seriously? Sorry, I know I am doing a terrible job of relating the gist but from a practical standpoint, none of the good guys think to use four bullets and their problems would be pretty much handled? This is weeks after the rise of zombies and survivors are just hanging on, so pretty much a TEOTWAWKI situation and yet none of these hardcore heroes can think of how to fix this problem. This reminded me of a scene in one of the Austin Powers movies where Dr. Evil's cloned son suggests that instead of some elaborate and sure-to-fail complicated death device be used on Austin Powers, that he, Scott, could "just shoot him in the head" with a pistol he had in his room and be done with the job.

 

I am not suggested that violence is always the answer, but when comfronted with a big enough threat, you should be willing to act rather than react. That was the point I realized I would not be picking up the sequel to this book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Completely agree that there's enough reckless jackassery in most zombie fiction to make you give up hope that people would survive even if all of the zombies suddenly disappeared. Of course, some are better than others.

 

I just read the Dead Hunger trilogy (starting with The Flex Sheridan Chronicle) by Eric A. Shelman. Overall, a pretty great zombie series with a lot of laughs and very likable characters. And they do a good job of making realistic, survival-centric decisions - staying away from population centers, making sure there are ways to kill/drive off zombies should you be trapped in your vehicle, only choosing vehicles that are practical from a zombie apocalypse perspective, etc. But there are a few things that I found distractingly infuriating:

 

  • Knowing zombie bites and scratches are almost certainly fatal, a character still manages to get her thumb bitten off by one WHO IS FULLY RESTRAINED because she had passing curiosity about whether zombies could respond to tenderness, then didn't pay attention while patting the zombie's dessicated cheek. Huh?
  • In several circumstances, their situational awareness is terrible. We have characters who trap themselves in jail cells, closets, and other places where there is only one way in or out and therefore no chance of escape. We have them ignoring threats of great masses of infected and going out prepped only to deal with small groups/individuals, only to get surprised and cornered by a seething mass of death.
  • Having had a couple of instances where they've been nearly shot by survivors when going into a new building, and having mentioned that pawn shops, gun shops, and similar supply stores are most likely to have survivors within, a character STILL gets shot trying to break into a farm supply store because he didn't call out beforehand - something all of the characters had said was necessary.
  • After mentioning that they didn't find two fellow survivors particularly trustworthy, they allowed them to drive the group's versatile and highly armed truck, carrying supplies and the secret zombie weapon, with a plan to "follow the convoy" of other group vehicles... then are shocked when the survivors simply steal the truck and various weaponry and head off to points unknown.

 

As with you, Texas Bill, I'm definitely not an advocate for senseless violence. But in what is truly TEOTWAWKI, when there is no police or justice system to handle things, tough decisions have to be quickly made and acted on. In these circumstances, the well-being and safety of the group as a whole (particularly its weaker members) has to be the first consideration. That may mean killing a 'bad guy' not just in circumstances where murder or rape or something dire has happened, but might also include instances of simple sabotage or thievery that would have had a substantially negative impact on the group's survival chances. And if you don't trust someone, you damn sure limit their access to the group and its resources, monitor them closely, and possibly just expel or kill them outright. You realize that "hope for the best" isn't a plan, it's the kind of thing that leads to good guys getting killed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Exactly! I think what frustrated me with the stuff I mentioned from that series is that, on the balance, they were smarter than a lot of other "zombie survivalists" in other novels. They really DID employ some decent strategies and actually debated the merits of small group survival versus a larger community, etc., which a lot of them don't even seem to consider.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember reading Undead Nation series by Brett Acuff and thinking that the strategies used by the "survivors" in that book would get everybody killed. This series had plot holes big enough to drive a tank through, but since I got them for free I stuck around to see if the story got better. Nope. I don't recall all the specifics since i deleted the books from my Kindle after reading, but author did so little research it was painful to read at points.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LOL That's why I'd never write a zombie or post-apocalypse book myself: I don't have enough firsthand tactical knowledge to just write it and get it right, and it would take a LOT of hours of research and vetting by people with real know-how to make for realistic action sequences. Sounds like too much work!

 

By the way, I'm reading a book right now - Slow Burn: A Zombie Novel by Mike Fosen and Hollis Weller - that actually seems to be holding together pretty well in terms of tactics, prior prepping, etc. One reviewer described it as "The Walking Dead meets Patriots" and that's really not too far off. I'm only about a quarter of the way through the book, but it's been good so far. This shouldn't be that surprising as they wrote it originally as a team effort on ar15.com, so these are people who have spent considerable time actually thinking through scenarios.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OC,

One of the reasons I like Louis L'Amour's works is his background research. Not always accurate but usually pretty solid. My requirement for fiction is that I must not be required to accept more than one or two suspensions of believe. That's probably why I don't like most fantasy stuff, there is WAY too much weird, that can't happen stuff for me.

 

While I'm not a 'zombie' fan, there are enough weird chemicals and bugs out there that the effect can be achieved so the premise is not too far off if done properly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Capt Bart, that's one of the reasons I liked World War Z. Yes, you have to accept that zombies are real. But almost everything else resonates as true and of this world.

 

I read it before I even contemplated prepping, and it is one of the things that galvanized me - not because I think zombies are a likely scenario, but because when World War Z tracks how the infection spread, I realized that ANY major biological agent or illness could do the same thing. And while ravening hoards of the undead is scary on a visceral level, the truth is, a pandemic that killed millions would be enough to destabilize governments and lead to widespread death from starvation and secondary diseases like dysentery.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished a little book entitled After the Pulse by Kim Jewell, which is the standard solar storm EMP story but with a twist. The solar storm is so intense that it jumbles some people's brains so they are either a) catatonic, B) mindless attacking zombies, or c) lose all moral inhibitions and become serial killers. The protagonists (a family of five with a few strays thrown in) are aware of these changes and yet they are repeatedly surprised by attackers from the last two categories. Makes for exciting reading, but I ended up thinking less of the author for being lazy in setting up the action. As for getting it wrong, (SPOILER ALERT):

 

Even though the small community is aware that they have wolves amongst the sheep, they decide to have a large church service and invite everybody to it, leaving their homesteads undefended. Further, after church (a memorial service for all their dead), they decide to hold a softball game and everybody is walking around UNARMED while they know these wolves are out there. Of course, hilarity ensues. No, actually, bad things happen that they should have been prepared for, given the facts available to them. Actually, had this been a "real" situation, things much worse than the author contemplated would have occured because no one was really prepared despite having many days to get ready.

 

The author tried hard to portray how things would be after an EMP, but certain details seemed to have slipped past him/her. Like, if they live on a farmstead with no power, how are they pumping their water? I may be wrong but I don't recall this being explained. The author is not really a prepper but wanted to write a book about survivors after an EOTW event, which is fine, but he/she needed to do more research. Fortunately, the scenario as written was so unlikely that no one would be expected to follow any advice given here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read the first two books in a trilogy (An End of Days and All Hell Won't Wait by CJ Wellman) over the weekend that are the epitome of Survival Fiction Getting It Wrong. Despite a good premise and interesting characters, the author manages to have supposedly intelligent characters do really stupid things. SPOILER ALERT:

 

For example, when the bad guys (cannibals and slavers) are preparing to attack a small town of supposedly smart, savvy survivors, the good guys already know that the bad guys have carefully scouted out every single important building in the town, including the school and hospital. All of the houses are mini-forts but even though the sheriff KNOWS the day of the scheduled attack, the militia leaders decide to let folks go about their business INCLUDING SENDING THE KIDS TO SCHOOL. You can't live in fear, the sheriff says. So of course, the raiders hit the school and kidnap all the kids. This is set six years after the grid goes down and these survivors are all "smart" folks, so why would an author have his characters do something so dumb? Yes, I like action and drama but not at the expense of insulting my intelligence. Also, even though our protagonist Carla is supposed to be death on two legs, she gets grabbed TWICE by bad guys where she is completely unarmed. Now, once is inside her own house, but the first time she is camping in the woods when she knows bad things are out there. The two books are full of stuff like this where you just scratch your head and go "huh"?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Texas Bill,

Yep. Haven't read the books BUT you don't need a massive EMP for your options A, B, or C to occur. You just need to be located close to a major metropolitan area.

As to the

Now, once is inside her own house, but the first time she is camping in the woods when she knows bad things are out there.

thing, well, if I've been home more than 3 minutes and I'm not dressed for bed, I am NOT unarmed! About the only time I don't have one or more lead launchers on me is when I'm in bed (and then they are close to hand) or I'm going to, am at, or coming home from my job on Federal property where I am not legally allowed to carry. After TSHTF I can NOT conceive of anyone who has survived years in "Indian Country" running around disarmed. It is a pain but not as big a pain as getting dead.

 

Just my not so humble opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

David Turner's 'Lights Out' is not too bad. A basically unprepared guy (always gotta be or the plot is boring) gets caught by a 'something' (reads like an EMP of Carrington proportions but is never named) winds up surviving just outside of San Antonio. Some reasonably good stuff there but again, just a little bit too much of the 'we need a tractor, oh, wait, here's one' kind of thing to be extremely good.

 

The best part to me was the recognition that the government may not just "go away" and if it doesn't it will get in your way as you try to prep. For example, having a CHL lets them buy guns because the background check stuff is already done. With the government still around the gun shops still follow the law.

 

Again, the luck thing is my biggest objection. You do NOT always find what you need just in time! It was necessary for the story because these guys were not prepared BUT it is really a lousy Plan A. If you read the story for an example of how things can go sour and the type of things you need if it does, a great book. If you take away that you can find what you need (a retired Marine Gunny Sargent as your tactical expert, for example) when you need it, you will be sadly mislead.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Capt, I read you loud and clear regarding "Lights Out". Relying on Lady Luck is a bad proposition. Just look at the degenerate gamblers in Vegas as one example.

 

As for zombies, I enjoy the books but the best zombie authors realize that the most dangerous predator is man and they usually have some "Outlaw Biker Mutant Raider" element who are worse than the zombies. As one of the characters in a zombie book I read recently explained "Zombies can't shoot for $hit". I just get really tired of authors who do NO research and write about things like ".35 caliber pistols" and "double barreled pump shotguns". Also, writers who create overly elaborate ambushes are just annoying.

 

For example, the good guys in End of Days know exactly where the bag guys are sleeping, how many and can observe the camp from a concealed location. Instead of just shooting the cannibals in their sleep and calling it a day, they stage this complicated ruse using kids as bait and end up getting one of their own wounded and the bad guys get away. Again, remember that this is set six years after the Grid went down and all of the good guys are supposed to be hardened warriors, not some group of newbies who should shy from doing the necessary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Texas Bill,

Yep, half a dozen years is a heck of a long time to survive and STILL be a greenhorn! That really takes away from the story.

 

You are also right, I need to get me one of those 'double barrel pump' shotguns that hold 18 rounds!:) I guess it makes the writer money but I think a writer OWES his audience a basic level of work and just lazy writing for money is just one more indicator of the problems in our society. Real men used to do (still do if they are truly men) a good job even if no one else cared.

 

Just my not so humble opinion.

Edited by Capt Bart

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree, Capt Bart, and I am not shy about pointing out these problems when I write reviews. This doesn't win me many friends, but I figure anybody else coming along would want to know the author is just too lazy to do any research. Come on, in this era of google and wikipedia, is it really that difficult? Authors who take offense like to claim their work of fiction is merely intended to entertain, but as you pointed out with Louis L'Amour, that doesn't mean the author gets to get away without doing their homework.

 

I don't plan on making any survival plans based around what I read in fiction, but I do like to get ideas from what I do read. Bugging Out to Nowhere, for good example, gives me a basis to do my own looking if I ever have to harden a mobile home, and I can tell the author here did some research and maybe even did the work described. When authors are getting it wrong with even the easy stuff, I have a hard time respecting them or their writing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Capt. Bart, I thought this book had some pretty good ideas. Heck, I wish I knew you were going to order--I would have just loaned it to you. Then, if you liked it you could buy your own copy to keep, since the "loan" on Amazon only lasts two weeks. Genesis of the Sun is a good book about preppers dealing with a Carrington Event, BTW, and they do a good job discussing set up for security at the BOL and the need for extra bodies just to maintain a perimeter watch. Let us know what you think about BOTN. You know we value your opinion here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm about 1/2 through Bugging out to Nowhere - a decent story but they should have gotten a decent EDITOR! The bad grammer is almost enough to make stop reading but the simple unforced errors drive me totally NUTS!:mad:

EXAMPLE:

The Viet Nam Service medal is not 3 red stripes on a green background. The Service ribbon is 3 red strips on a yellow background with just a touch of green at the ends (based on the RVN Flag) and the CAMPAIGN medal is 3 white stripes on a green background.

http://www.priorservice.com/virilapiandm.html

OK, a minor point as is the fact that IF the guard were manning roadblocks they'd not be in Class A uniforms; medals/ribbons are not worn on fatigues or BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform - the new fatigue) but it is an unforced error on the part of the author. A good presentation of what MIGHT happen, how, and some of the physiological issues that might be encountered but I really wish the author had done a better job fact checking the story. The errors detract from the stories readability.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recent Topics

  • Posts

    • This is a great inspiring article. I am pretty much pleased with your good work. You put really very helpful information.
       
    • here is the survival coupons codes to get a amazing material of survival struggling 
    • Hey all, This is sort of cool (okay really cool) and maybe some of you have heard about it because it's been plastered over FOX and mentioned by POTUS as well as other conservative-leaning news people (Huckabee, Diamond/Silk, Candace Owens, Mark Levin, etc..) and politicians. #walkaway is a movement based mostly on social media. Started last year, by Brandon Straka (pronounced Strawk - like "straw" with a "k"). He's a former 2016 HRC-voting hair stylist, from NE, now in NYC, homosexual, liberal who began to question the MSM and what he was hearing. He got really frustrated as he began to do his own research. Anyway, after having his own awakening to the lies of MSM he had been following, he began an online testimonial campaign in which former liberals can post their #walkaway stories, written or video. Many are now on the "Trump Train." Many have simply left the Left. Still, others have always been non-Left and are members in support. The amazing thing is how many different people from all walks of life are beginning to wake up. Lots are not conservative on all issues, but all have a love for the USA and dislike the demonization of open political and social thinkers and speakers. This group gives solace to people scared to voice their conservative opinions or views for fear of negative professional or personal responses. It now has budding smaller groups in all 50 states and an online discussion group where people discuss current topics or issues (WITH no vitriol, gasp).  Here's the original video from Brandon.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=51UGcghHZsk This man, Brandon has a unique, stylish, well-articulated voice to help move people "in hiding" out into the open and not be silenced. Pretty much any video Brandon does is great. Here is the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/groups/OFFICIALwalkawaycampaign/ As I see fights erupt online, I simply leave #walkaway in the comments. Brandon has a goal of 1 million members! The liberal media has called this campaign "Russian Bots" and "paid actors." It's not!!!        
    • thanks to all who  have served or are serving our great country....243 years in the making....   Trump did a good job today thanking each branch of our military and a long time coming salute to the coast guard too....
    • I can imagine food prices going up this Fall or Winter. Corn is used for live stock feed, & us humans consume a lot of corn based products, as well as corn based biofuel. I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the mid-west of America, which is flooded by water. Where corn  & other crops are normally grown there. Farmers are quite worried about this years growing season. Time to stock up on extra food if you can, if you haven’t already. Stack it high, stack it deep. Store the foods that you normally eat. What ever the  amount of food you’ve stored,  try to double it if possible. Better extra safe, than sorry.