If you have not yet read The Borrowed World just a heads up: this review will contain light spoilers on the first book of the series.
In The Borrowed World we followed Jim and his group of coworkers as they desperately tried to get home after the nation was crippled by a terrorist attack. Jim, a serious prepper, had to use all his knowledge (and gear) to navigate the disintegrating world, where dangers lurked behind every corner and violence became the preferred method of communication. Not all of Jim’s colleagues were that impressed though and some chose to stay behind and hope that the government sorts things out. For Alice and Rebecca this translated into waiting to be transported to a FEMA camp.
While Jim’s trek is still very important, it leaves center stage and Ashes of the Unspeakable gives other strands of the story more room. The struggles of Jim’s wife Ellen and their kids and the sobering adventures of Alice and Rebecca get in-depth attention. A few new major characters are introduced. Fortunately these segments are just as engrossing and entertaining as Jim’s hike.
Most characters continue taking logical decisions and although luck plays a big role sometimes (just as in real life) everything stays relatively plausible. Real preppers may even get their notebook out, as there are a few genuinely useful tips and tricks to be found.
A criticism of the first book, the somewhat flat characters lacking detail and without much development still stands though. Some of the characters do develop a bit, but they only change into a light version of Jim. Perhaps this transformation is necessary to survive in the brutal post apocalyptic world, so in context it makes sense I guess. Even though the perspective switches during the story, it appears as if the book was written by prepper Jim, his world view projected on all characters and his obsession with gear, guns and being prepared permeating every dialogue and description.
Why the terrorist attack is so devastating and the collapse so complete, it is touched upon but the reasoning feels contrived. It is probably better to stick with the it-is-how-it-is approach of the first book and just focus on dealing with the given situation and keep the roller-coaster, eh rolling. The (not very original) argument that society is only held together by a very thin layer of veneer, under which tribal or even animal like behavior is hidden sounds true though and is scary enough. All that said, Ashes of the Unspeakable is an entertaining and action packed, sometimes horrific tale of survival against the odds. For preppers, written by a prepper (speculation on my part).
Finally, I found the narration by Kevin Pierce to be good, dry as it should be. In dialogues Pierce does not really do voices as such, but subtly changes the diction a bit. On Amazon you can always listen to a sample to see if you like it.
Listening time: 9 hours, 2 minutes.