Thursday, March 17, 2016

Will To Survive by Eric Walters

Will To Survive is the final installment in Canadian author, Eric Walters' Rule of Three trilogy about survival in a post-apocalyptic world.

It has been months since the power blackout and the community at Eden Mills has further solidified itself, growing its own food and developing it's own security. But it is now plagued by one of its own members, rookie cop Brett who has turned against the Eden Mills group.

The novel opens exactly where the second book left off - Adam Daley has just killed two men intent on making him fly his Cessna to a group of armed ex-military men who have been preying on smaller communities.

Adam's group, led by Herb Campbell had captured Brett and his group which had gone rogue. Brett who was being kept prisoner, escaped, freed the other prisoners and ordered them to kill their guards. He kidnapped Adam and had instructed two of the prisoners, Tim and Owen to force him to fly his Cessna to the Division compound while he and the remaining prisoners traveled on foot to the Division. Before leaving, Brett told Adam that he had killed Herb. Determined not to fly the Cessna, Adam had no choice but to kill Tim and Owen. Will To Survive opens with Adam's mother who in charge of security and her lieutenant, Howie, trying to understand what has just happened.

Adam races to Herb's home to discover him very much alive. Suspecting Brett might try to kill him, Herb has been sleeping in his "safe" room - a concrete bunker in his basement. Adam tells his mother, Howie and Herb that Brett forced the rebels to kill the guards. Based on what Adam tells him, Herb states that Brett is trying to instill fear into their community. Adam also tells Herb that Brett has formed an alliance with the colonel and the remains of the Division who have since returned to the compound.

Herb tells them they must act quickly because Brett knows how they operate, their strengths and weaknesses. They decide to change the guard stations and their schedules as well as where supplies are stored. Meanwhile, Herb and Adam take the Cessna up and fly directly to the Division compound because they know that is what Brett is expecting. However Adam and Herb also take along a home made bomb, set to detonate thirty-five seconds after its armed. They touch down only long enough for Herb to set down the armed bomb. The explosion destroys one of the barracks and lays a huge hole in the runway.

Herb, Adam and Quinn who is an ex-Division member do reconnaissance from the Cessna to see what communities exist around them. They discover the refinery near the lake which likely still contains fuel and decide that they will reach out to them in the future. Their flight also takes them over the Division compound which is found to be deserted. An away team is sent to the compound to tear it down and destroy it so the Division cannot return.

Days later the Eden Mills neighborhood is attacked from the burned out condominium tower. Two guards are injured. In the morning Adam goes up in the ultra light while Adam's father and others lead an assault time to the tower. They find that the sniper has abandoned the tower but killed four people so he could use their unit. Adam and Herb believe that Brett is behind the attacks which result in the deaths of three guards.

While the rest of the group wants to take down the tower, Adam suggests that they extend their wall so that it includes the condo tower. His plan while increasing the number of people they have to feed will allow them to grow more food and provide better protection for the Cessna taking off on the Erin Mills highway.

As this is undertaken, flights over the area reveal several things to Adam and Herb. They discover that there is a group of armed people with motorized buggies and carts who are traveling on the nearby roads. They appear to be well organized and are all wearing similar clothing. They also located a field of ready to harvest potatoes and discover another farmer and his family, taking them into the community.However a second attack on the Eden Mills community with a rocket propelled grenade makes Herb realize that they must connect with the communities around them, including the people living at the hospital

Adam, his girlfriend Lori and best friend Todd discover another isolated community on an island in the lake. They are forced to land at the island airport where they meet Robert Wayne a colonel in charge of three thousand people living there. After returning to Eden Mill's Adam brings Herb back to the island to meet Colonel Wayne. However, they are contacted by Brett and he tells them he will be attacking the Eden Mills neighborhood again. Adam begins to realize that the only way to protect their people may be to kill Brett. It is an action he does not want to take, but when Brett harms more innocent people, Adam becomes convinced they will only be safe when Brett is dead.

Discussion

Will To Survive is a thrilling conclusion to Walter's Rule of Three series. In the first two novels, Walters laid the groundwork for the events in the final novel by developing the sociopathic character of Brett who was a cop working under Adam's mother in the local police force. At first it seems Herb is able to restrain Brett's bad behaviour, but as the crisis continues and social order breaks down, Brett's true character begins to show. He becomes increasingly violent, killing for pleasure and then becomes determined to seek revenge on Herb and Adam. Brett takes over the Division and turns them into a mobile Mad Max-like force. His attacks on the Eden Mills community evolve into attacks against innocent families in an attempt to breed fear and gain control over the community. Believing he has killed Herb, he is now determined to kill Adam, who he sees as the leader of the Eden Mills community.

In contrast Adam Daley continues to grow into a responsible, intelligent leader under the tutelage of Herb. Adam is the true hero of the situation; he thinks outside the box and tries to live by his moral code, an important part of which is not to kill people. As he confronts the evil threat Brett poses, Adam questions whether he will become like Brett, killing for pleasure. Adam knows that likely the only way to stop Brett is to kill him. "And he was a monster -- a monster I had to kill. And I had to do it without hesitation, without that split second of doubt, without thinking of him as a person. Then I realized that was the way Brett killed. No doubt, no remorse, no second thoughts. In order to kill him, to kill the monster, I'd have to be a monster, too. I'd have to join him. Not just for my own sake, but for the people of this neighborhood and beyond."

When the neighborhood group votes on whether or not to give into Brett's demands, Adam has the deciding vote and he demonstrates courage by voting not to give in. But this is still a struggle for him as he admits after a fight with his girlfriend Lori. "Here I was, stuck between two options; either I was becoming too much like Brett...or I wasn't enough like him and I wouldn't be able to stay alive."

Eventually though Adam does have to kill Brett when Herb is shot in cold blood. The loss of Herb leaves Adam second-guessing his decision to follow his conscience. But Dr. Morgan tells him "That's not who you are. That's not who we are, what we stand for, and you know that." Adam knows he couldn't have killed Brett in cold blood, which is why he never shot before Brett shot Herb. Instead he waited until he had no choice.

Adam's hope in humanity and his struggle to see the humanity of those he's fighting against - especially Brett, results in Herb changing how he views others. Herb freely admits that Adam helped remind him of the humanity of others in his final letter.

The only significant plot weakness in Will To Survive is the lack of any hint about what happened to cause the blackout. Despite the Eden Mills community coming into contact with military and other communities almost a hundred miles away no mention is ever made about what happened on a broader scale. For example, the island community which has planes capable of traveling far distances apparently has no idea what is going on. Neither Adam nor Herb seem interested in finding out either. The question is never broached even six months after the blackout when there might have been some news of what happened.

Walters skillfully leads his readers to the exciting showdown between Brett's group and the Eden Mills community. Despite the shocking twist at the end of the novel, the story concludes on a hopeful note with the brief restoration of the highway lights suggesting that whatever cause the blackout for months was soon to be overcome.

The Rule of Three series is highly recommended for fans of survival fiction and reluctant readers who prefer a male protagonist. As usual, the great covers are a draw to crack the spine and become immersed in a well thought out story by an accomplished Canadian author.


Book Details:

Will To Survive by Eric Walters
Toronto: Razorbill    2016
310 pp.

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