Review: To Sail A Darkling Sea by John Ringo


Publisher: Baen
Publishing Date: Feb 2014
ISBN: 9781476736211
Genre: Scifi/Fantasy
Rating: 2.5/5.0

Publisher Description: With human civilization annihilated by a biological zombie plague, a rag-tag fleet of yachts and freighters known as Wolf Squadron scours the Atlantic, searching for survivors. Within every abandoned liner and carrier lurks a potential horde, safety can never be taken for granted, and death and turning into one of the enemy is only a moment away.

Review: Not a fan of the cover art. I don’t think that design is going to attract many customers. Two argumentative quasi military types sends a negative message. Looks like two juveniles playing dress up.

I am going to start with some of the technical problems that I see in this book, some of it subjective in nature but perhaps relevant. The author pretty much begins the novel with firearm calibers and their effective stopping power on zombies. Faith (a 13 year old super zombie killer-yeah I know), iterates that the .556 is a Barbie gun and that shotguns and the .45 caliber are what stops a zombie. She goes on to give a ratio of bullets used to weight carried etc. I am a firm believer in ability to effectively and precisely put rounds downrange in a dynamic and not static, effort. Sydney Vail, a trauma surgeon wrote a great article where he stipulates that “stopping power” is really a marketing tool (and always has been) and that the information currently pedaled around is based on hype as well as flawed standardized testing. Stopping power, as defined by me and others is “a calibers stopping power is only effective when it hits a vital structure”. This implies accuracy and precision with shot placement. I think the authors reasoning is flawed in that it takes 5 rounds of .556 to every one round of .45 to stop an entity. Faith also points out that the .556 is no good in CQB (close quarters combat) and therefore is useless in boarding ships versus the .45 handgun and the shotgun. I have shot many 3 gun matches that require engaging multiple targets, while running, at close range (50 yds. or less). I use a CQB site rail that is affixed to the side of scope, and it is quite accurate and effective. Faith also describes how the 1911 is an antiquated pos while the HK tactical .45 is far superior due to its double stacking of rounds. While I agree with SF selection of this weapon due to it’s durability, I think the Glock is a better choice for a lot of reasons I won’t get into here. Back to the 1911 and it being the “titanic” versus the “more modern HK”. In all my years competing at the highest level of practical shooting, have I seen anyone using an H&K USP .45 to compete with. There is a reason for this. They suck. Jamming is the least of this guns foibles. It is highly inaccurate once you get past 7 yards, it has a short site radius, crappy sites, bad balance, trigger pull is around 12 lbs. on double action and about 5 lbs. single action. I have shot both, and since I subscribe to ability and that effect on accuracy, I would say that the 1911 single stack is a very accurate and repeatable weapon. Since I translate accuracy into stopping power, this “Titanic” would be the better choice in any situation except perhaps shooting sharks underwater. My last firearm to focus on is Faith’s use of the Saiga Shotgun. While the Saiga is a pretty cool idea (a shotgun based on the AK platform) it requires an incredible amount of work to get the gas opsys functioning properly. If you know an expert gunsmith that specifically works on Saigas’ to get them to run (like Jim at Firebird Presion and maybe a couple of others in the USA), then you mayswell trash it or get your face eaten by zombies. Saigas have horrible build quality and the matches I have seen them NOT run are due to major malfs that take longer than 10 seconds to rectify. Gunsmiths will go through quite a few to get one running and at that point the client will have spent close to $2k on modding. AND IT STILL WILL FAIL! In any situation the most reliable shotgun with a long tube is the pump. My choice would be the FNH Mark 1 Police.

I don’t really want to get into how a 13 year old is a master zombie killer whom teaches marines CQB tactics and her ability to kill zombies with timed firearm bursts to her music of choice. Not sure how a marine (Janus) can tell that she is timing her bursts to music being that live fire is REALLY LOUD. She does all this while having a perfect soprano voice. Of course she does. Despite the huge suspension of disbelief about Faith and the author’s take on firearms, I thought that the character development was superb. While the story-line tended to jump around from page to page, the premise of finding boats with survivors evoked the Darwin Elevator’s intent. There is something magnetic about uncovering the unknown especially when there is booty to be had. While Faith is not believable as a character I found Sophia and Gunny engaging in all aspects.

There is some weird instances where Ms. Gowen, the only female in a group of trapped Marines, is pretty much required to be passed around in order to maintain discipline in a tense situation, because well, Marines need to F**K or go crazy, right? She eventually comes around to liking threesomes, because there is not much else to do other than f**K, and oh by the way, she’s pregnant. Oh well. Jeez. Not sure if I am looking forward to the next in this series or just like watching a slo-motion train wreck. The fascination is there but the inner self-loathing that accompanies it might be stronger deterrent.

2 thoughts on “Review: To Sail A Darkling Sea by John Ringo

  1. You write the BEST reviews. This isn’t really my genre, but I do pick up the odd sci-fi on occasion. I won’t be getting this book simply based upon the author’s not being familiar enough with what kind of weaponry the characters use. I’ve often wondered when reading some technical explanation in a novel if the author has researched the material enough so that the scenes are plausible. I’ve also wondered if anyone else who reads this kind of thing knows enough to challenge discrepancies. I am not that person when it comes to weapons, but you picked up on the fallacies in this work immediately. Again, good job!

  2. Thanks Gabby! If you talk to three guys about a weapon of choice for any given situation, you will get 4 arguments. Egos seem to be especially marked where firearms are concerned but the general consensus of expert shooters (USPSA/Multi-gun competition), seem to be consistent across the board.

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