W. C. Dietz starts a new trilogy of novels with 'Into the Guns'

William C. Dietz, who served in the U.S. Navy as a Corpsman – the experience from which he drew inspiration for many of his military science fiction novels, has so far written more than 40 books, which include original works, as well as tie-in novels for several well-known sci-fi video game franchises, such as Halo, Mass Effect and Starcraft.

‘Into the Guns’, the first book in the planned trilogy of novels ‘America Rising’, which was recently published by the British publishing company Titan Books, marks the author’s welcome return to the sci-fi sub-genre he is best known for – military science fiction.

The novel begins on May Day in the year 2018, when a big swarm of large meteors enters the Earth’s atmosphere at a very high velocity and hits the surface of the planet at multiple places right across the globe where the individual meteorites explode with a force greater than a nuclear blast. U.S.A., England, France, Italy, Romania, Turkmenistan and China all take direct hits. At least third of the space rocks plunge into the oceans, triggering massive tsunamis and powerful earthquakes that cause further destruction on an unimaginable scale. And just as the inhabitants of the devastated areas think that their situation couldn’t get any worse, China, who mistakes the natural disaster for an act of war, thinking it is under attack, launches a dozen intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads from its submarines stationed in the Pacific Ocean against Japan, South Korea, Australia and United States.

The plot follows two disparate characters, who, following a huge meteor onslaught, find themselves fighting for their lives – and the United States they once knew

With Washington D.C., that took a direct hit from one of the meteorites, completely destroyed and the nation’s leadership all but non-existent, the surviving elements of the armed forces are the only remaining authority that can try and restore order as the whole structure of the American society falls apart. And while thousands of refugees across the country band together and engage in partisan warfare with the military over ever more scarce resources, America, just as during the times of the Civil War, once more splits right in the middle. While the patriots in the North struggle to restore the United States of America in its entirety and pre-disaster form, in the South, a select group of well-off individuals representing the surviving mega-corporations, who feel that the oil-rich South is dragged down by the resources-hungry North, makes a bid to secede from the Union and rebrand the break-away Southern states in a free-market image as ‘The New Confederacy’. America is slowly recovering from the aftermath of the global catastrophe, but in the lawless wilderness that was once the USA, only the strongest can survive.

The plot of the novel centres on two disparate main characters:

First lieutenant Robin 'Mac' MacIntyreMac comes from a proud military family of several generations of soldiers and both her father and older sister are officers who have risen to high ranks in the Army. Mac’s military career is however overshadowed by that of her elder sister Victoria, and in her father’s eyes she is nothing but a disappointment. In the aftermath of the disaster, Mac, who is a Platoon Leader as well as XO of the Archer Company stationed at the JBLM Military Base, finds herself unexpectedly in command of her unit, after the former commanding officer, Captain Driscol, is killed by a sniper when a group of motorcycle-mounted armed men tried, and failed, to storm the military base, and his second-in-command and replacement Captain Hollister dies in a landslide. With the official chain of command rapidly disintegrating, and food supplies dwindling, Mac quickly realises that ‘Mac’s Marauders’ (how her unit becomes known) can survive only by transforming themselves into mercenaries, hired guns who offer their services to those who can afford to pay (whether directly or by way of some compensation, such as food for her soldiers or fuel and spare parts for unit’s vehicles). However, despite the given situation, Mac doesn’t lose her moral compass and takes only jobs that involve protecting defenceless citizens against the mobs of criminal elements, who, with the local and federal law-enforcement forces all but neutralised, go on an endless spree of looting, intimidation, rape and murder.

Samuel T. Sloan, U.S. Secretary of Energy – When the meteors enter the atmosphere, Secretary Sloan is in Mexico on an official visit, unveiling the largest floating solar array in the region just off the shore of the coastal city of Tampico. Boarding the rented speedboat which took him to the solar farm just a short while before, Sloan rushes ashore where he is saved from a kidnapping attempt by a well-timed ensuing tsunami. Not being able to establish contact with the authorities, and not knowing whether he managed to shake off his would-be kidnappers, Sloan appropriates a canoe from a shipwrecked boat before undertaking an arduous 300-mile-long journey from Mexico back to USA following the shoreline, paddling at night and hiding during the day. Once back in the States, Sloan, who would be under normal circumstances a lowly 10th in the presidential line of succession, suddenly finds himself being the first in the line to the U.S. presidency, after the entire government is wiped out when one of the meteorites hits Washington D.C.

My apprehension as a total military science fiction virgin was very quickly dispelled as I was drawn deeper into William C. Dietz’s thrilling post-apocalyptic world

Both Mac and Sloan, although coming from completely different backgrounds, share two common characteristics: both love their country and are dedicated to their job, but both are also pragmatics and mavericks who would, if need be, not hesitate to use unorthodox methods to achieve their goals, if that is what it takes to survive in this harsh, unforgiving post-apocalyptic world.

The storyline of the novel continually toggles between the two, following Mac and her ‘Marauders’ as they are travelling south to Arizona hoping to find a milder climate than in the northern states that are suffering from a never-ending winter (as Sun is being blocked by a combination of dust from the impacts and soot from the ensuing forest fires), and Sloan as he makes his way north from Mexico back to USA where he, before he knows it, finds himself an unlikely military leader and president of the post-apocalyptic Union. The paths of Mac and Sloan eventually intertwine when Sloan, now inaugurated as the U.S. President, hires Mac and her Marauders to participate in the attack on Fort Knox Gold Bullion Depository as well as the future, now clearly inevitable, full-out war with the New Confederacy, with a promise that Mac’s unit will be eventually integrated into the restored armed forces.

In the meanwhile, harking back to the American Civil War, which was splitting families right down the middle, Mac’s father, a high-ranking general, takes on a role of one of the New Confederacy’s top military leaders, with his daughter and Mac’ elder sister Victoria serving under him as a ruthless field commander deployed by her father to the most critical missions, such as when she retakes the strategically important SpaceX rocket-launching site located near Brownsville, Texas, from the Zapata drug cartel, who overran the facility.

Being a military science fiction novel, the book is generously peppered throughout with military jargon, terms and puzzling acronyms such as AWOL, KIA, MIA, WIA, MRE, RTO and SOL as well as permeated by assorted codenames of military vehicles and weapons systems like

BUFFALO, COUGAR, DPV, AT4, ESV, M35 and M320, which, if you are unfamiliar with either the genre or the military, could initially feel a bit daunting. Any qualms are however quickly dissipated by the fact that the author, who is clearly not a big fan of lengthy and tedious introductions, thrusts the reader bang-on in the midst of fast-paced, high-adrenaline action already by the page 16. I, being a complete military science fiction virgin, have approached this novel with a tiny bit of apprehension, that quickly disappeared as I was drawn deeper into William C. Dietz’s thrilling post-apocalyptic world, not wanting to put the book down. Sign me up for the next two books in the series!