John Ringo’s “Black Tide Rising” series presents a world devastated by a bio-engineered viral plague. The plague destroys upper-brain functions turning the infected into mindless cannibals—effectively zombies. It’s highly contagious. It’s contracted through blood-to-blood contact with the infected—usually as they attack those not infected, to eat them. The series focuses on how survivors cope with the collapse of society.
“At the End of the Journey,” by Charles E. Gannon, is the latest arrival in the “Black Tide Rising” series. It follows the story of American teenagers who begin a senior year summer cruise aboard sailing ketch Crosscurrent Voyager just before the plague strikes. Sailing alone from the Galapagos to the South Sandwich Islands, they’re able to avoid the plague.
This was related to an earlier novel, “At the End of the World.” In it, the ship’s ex-special air service captain dies of a preexisting condition, but not before preparing his teenage charges to run the boat themselves and to fend off both the infected and those remaining human that mercilessly prey on the weak after society’s collapse.
As this sequel begins, the Crosscurrent Voyager’s crew hasn’t just survived, they’ve thrived. At Ascension Island, they pick up Royal Air Force senior aircraftman Halethorpe, who wants them to undertake a mission. The GPS navigation satellites are still working, but they’ll drift out of position, becoming useless—unless a software update is sent to them. GPS will make it significantly easier for Earth to rebuild from the plague.
The update has to be sent to the satellites. All of the locations where the update could be sent have been overrun by the infected. Airman Halethorpe knows of one convenient place where the update can be done: the European Space Agency’s Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. He has the message and knows how to send it. All the six teens need to do is battle their way across a city filled with thousands of infected, force their way into the abandoned space center, get to the communications center, and use the satellite dish to send it.
While not an easy task, how often do teens get a chance to save the Earth’s future?
Gannon is skilled enough to turn an implausible premise into a believable story. While it sounds crazy in the synopsis, Gannon provides background to make the attempt seem credible. The result is “At the End of the Journey,” an exciting and addictive adventure.
“At the End of the Journey,” by Charles E. Gannon, Baen Books, 2021.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, Texas. His website is MarkLardas.com.