Book Review: Apocalypse Weird: Texocalypse Now by Michael Bunker and Nick Cole

Cover by Mike Corley

Cover by Mike Corley

In Apocalypse Weird: Texocalypse Now (Digger #1), Michael Bunker and Nick Cole show improvement in what has already been great storytelling and prose in their earlier works. For those who are unaware of Apocalypse Weird, Shaun just posted a nice summary of this groundbreaking endeavor to change face of indie publishing. They call it Marvel Universe meets books. The Red King by Nick Cole was a great first book to introduce us to this collective world of apocalypses, and best of all, it’s free! Nick’s sequel, The Dark Knight, just released along with four other books in this world.

The story of Texocalypse Now is described as

A band of children, led by a boy barely a man, will stand against a rising tide of humans gone feral, greedy precious metal pirates and psychotic roving biker gangs to make a home for themselves atop a hidden valley.

The story begins with a horrific event that came off as a fresh beginning to the crowded genre of post apocalypses, but then it slows down (way down at times). We are introduced to a wide cast of characters, but I didn’t really feel connected to them until about 60% in. There were some parts before that where I thought, great scene, but I had just as many if not more reactions to scenes where I put the book down to read something else.

The scene I enjoyed most in the first third was between Jim and Mr. Vo. I really enjoyed Jim and his backstory as a Vietnam veteran, and then how he was able to trick Mr. Vo into admitting the truth about his past. Aside from the end, this was my favorite scene. Unfortunately, the interest I gained through Jim’s pov wavered as I read Ellis’s early chapters (summarized in the line “And that made Utah the perfect place for Ellis to go, sit, and think.).

Ellis is a twenty two year old taking care of a valley that has strong foreshadowing of falling under an attack from brigands, zombies, or whatever. All he has to do is blow the bridge, though, and they’ll be safe. I felt like it took too long in his pov to get to action that made me want to read, but when it did, I was thrilled and was impressed with the emotional reaction it left me with.

Another pov, Mayhem, aka The Man in Black, who was a mixture of great description and a bit of over the top EVIL. An example of the over the top was Chapter 16 at the end of Episode Two. He walks into a saloon and, as may be common in the apocalypse, talks to himself.

“Eighty-eight bottles of beer on the wall!” he sand, and then broke into a fit of giggles and sputters. “Time to make some more mischief,” he roared and choked, sputtering on his own insane laughter and rage. “Time to make us some fun.”

I get that this is Apocalypse Weird, but that scene didn’t leave me afraid of what mischief would happen. I kept reading, though, and I’m glad because the book really improves as it goes. Mayhem encounters The Baron around the 60% mark, and the way he acted while outnumbered by this biker gang showed me that Mayhem was to be feared.

His smile was a leer. A threat wrapped in a dare.

That was a great summary. This whole scene shined with superb prose. The best example was the way Mayhem tamed The Baron’s horse.

The Baron’s horse did not like anyone. Even the Baron.

This accentuates two paragraphs of how The Baron witnesses Mayhem tame his horse, and the fear that Mayhem produces in him. Then, where Chapter 16’s description of Mayhem came off as almost unbelievable, the description of him in the bar in this scene felt more natural, producing the kind of intimidation I think the earlier chapter had meant to create.

Ellis improved as well as the story went on. I enjoyed the romantic conflict between him and Delores. (I went back and began rereading TN to see how this was foreshadowed and enjoyed the early chapters more the second time through. That could be a sign that I wasn’t in the right state of mind, or had a fully alert mind, or it could be that the emotional interest I developed at the end made the earlier chapters more interesting on the reread.) Back to my thoughts on him and Delores, I enjoyed the fresh dynamic of the age difference between them illustrating how five years of living in the apocalypse could affect teenagers’ maturity and how two people could develop feelings for each other after having started their relationship in a kind of father-daughter mindset. The end has a strong emotional reaction, but it could have been better had I been more interested in the characters in the first half of the book. Again, I can’t say whether this is my fault as a busy person fitting reading into my spare moments or what. I can only give my honest experience.

One last character I really enjoyed was Digiberto Reyes Navarro, aka Reyes Badfinger. His backstory broke my heart. I’ll let you discover why.

All in all, while Texocalypse Now had sections where I wished to have been more interested, there were scenes that really stood out as quality storytelling. I am eager to see what the next installment will do now that I’m engaged with these characters and their attempts to survive Apocalypse Weird.

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former Executive Producer for AISFP. His debut novel, Scavenger: Evolution, blends Dune with Alien in a thriller where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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