Audiobook Review: Then Came War by Jacqueline Druga

13 07 2012

Then Came War by Jacqueline Druga

Read by Andrew B. Wehrlen

Produced by Jacqueline Druga

Length: 5 Hrs 36 Min

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Invasion

Quick Thoughts: Then Came War is a fun, fast and often brutal American invasion novel, with some stunning visuals and loads of endearing characters. While it often left you wanting more, in terms of political back story and descriptive details, it also sucked you in and made you care about what was happening and the people it happened to. Druga uses a lot of classic Apocalyptic themes to good effect, and creates a compelling  novel for Post Apocalyptic fans.

Grade: B

One of my favorite subgenre of Post Apocalyptic fiction is the Invasion novel. Ever since watching the parachutes opening and the soldiers landing outside of Calumet High School in the movie Red Dawn, the idea of my country being invaded by an outside force has fascinated me. Sadly, despite some decent movies and miniseries dealing with the topic, I really haven’t found many good books about an American Invasion. Sure, there are some excellent novels dealing with invasion by aliens, vampires and demons from beyond or beneath, and these are full of guerilla tactics, small towns rising up, and unsung heroes, but I have found few about America specifically being invaded by a human army. There have been a few decent invasion novels that have occurred in other countries, particularly Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began series and Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, yet, I feel these novels have greater impact when it’s your country being invaded. My favorite American Invasion novel has to be Invasion by Eric L. Harry, despite it’s convenient end and telegraphed twists, its descriptions of brutal war over each inch of American soil against an overwhelming Chinese Army was intense and brutal. I’d like to say I discovered Then Came War in my exhausted search for the latest entry into my favorite subgenre, but in fact, it found me. I’m glad it did.

After surviving a brutal train crash in the tunnels of New York City, a group of survivors emerge to find the streets littered with dead bodies with no survivors in sight. Eventually, the group learns that the American East coast has been victims to a series of attacks using various Weapons of Mass Destruction, including thermal and nuclear bombs, and chemical and biological warfare. As America is reeling from the destruction, an Army compiled of various enemies of America land, seizing control of three American States. As our train survivors attempt to find safety, they encounter hostile forces, make unlikely bonds, and fight for their homes and families. I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant about Then Came War. Jacqueline Druga’s work is mostly self published, and as of yet, I have only read some of her Zombie Battle series. While I enjoyed the scenario she set up and the characters she creates for Zombie Battle, I felt the writing was a bit clunky and filled with too much unnecessary exposition. Yet, I have to say, I enjoyed the crap out of Then Came War. It’s nowhere near a perfect novel. There are some incredibly cheese filled moments, but, Druga managed to create such endearing characters that you sort of enjoy the cheese. The highlight of the novel is the relationships formed throughout, in particular a touching relationship between a blinded older Jewish woman and a teenagers African American who spent most of his life in foster care. There is plenty of action, yet the action seems to serve the purpose of testing and altering the relationships of the characters, and this actually works pretty well. At times, the novel suffers from a lack of descriptive depth to the scenes, creating intriguing scenarios that never achieve the viscerally vivid potentials Druga sets up. Basically, at times, the novel felt like it could have been fleshed out just a bit more, particularly towards the end. Yet, any failing is made up by the well defined characters, and an overall premise that just sucks you in right away. Then Came War is a fun, fast and often brutal American invasion novel, with some stunning visuals and loads of endearing characters. While it often left you wanting more, in terms of political back story and descriptive details, it also sucked you in and made you care about what was happening and the people it happened to. Druga uses a lot of classic Apocalyptic themes to good effect, and creates a compelling  novel for Post Apocalyptic fans.

Then Came War is one of the first independently produced audiobooks I have listened to. Honestly, as someone who listens as much as I do, I can be quite demanding of a narrator. While narrator Andrew B. Wehrlen’s performance wasn’t great, it also wasn’t bad. I had a few technical issues overall. While his pacing was often quite good, sometimes he seemed to get a bit rushed, leading to some awkward pauses and rough transitions. His characterizations weren’t as sharp and defined as they could be, particularly early in the novel, but as the novel progressed he got a hold of most of the characters and started to do some pretty strong work. I would have liked him to provide a bit more flavor to some of the characters, giving them stronger accents and more distinctive vocal styles. About halfway through this novel, I feel he really began to get into the flow of things. His pacing definitely improved, and he gave some strong performances, especially with Judith, the older Jewish women. Wehrlen has a strong, pleasant voice, and does a good job keeping the listener in the story. In the end, I feel Wehrlen does the story justice, bringing Druga’s world to life, and introducing the world to some wonderful characters. I will have no qualms about listening to another audiobook performed by Wehrlen, and definitely plan on checking out more of Druga’s work in audio.

Note: Thanks to the author for providing me with a copy if this title for review.

This review is part of my weekly, Welcome to the Apocalypse series.