Blue Fire
January 18, 2022

Book Review

Blue Fire

reviewed by Pam Guynn

Blue Fire by John Gilstrap is shocking, disturbing at times, suspenseful, and definitely pulse accelerating. I’ve seen it classified as post-apocalyptic, political thriller, and action thriller among others. Those are all fitting classifications to me.

Victoria (Vicky) Emerson was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of West Virginia when the nuclear war was imminent. When she couldn’t take her sons into the bunker for Congress, she resigned and she, her two youngest sons (Caleb and Luke), and her escorts, Major Joseph McCrea and First Sergeant Paul Copley end up in Ortho, West Virginia after much of the world is in chaos and an electromagnetic pulse has wiped out all electronics and technology. With Victoria as the de-facto leader of the town, they are trying to provide housing for refugees that are starting to inundate the town. Living off the land is necessary. Food, clothing, shelter are needed. Medicines are in short supply. The town has established rules for those that want to stay and there is a type of frontier justice that can be brutal for criminals. When a cry of “Blue Fire”, the code phrase for imminent danger is raised, the town must protect itself. Who will survive? Will the town successfully defend itself or be overrun or surrender?

Vicky’s goal of protecting and providing for her family and the town is clear. She certainly isn’t perfect and that adds realism to the story. The secondary characters have varying degrees of depth, but readers can see growth in Caleb and Luke. We also get insights into other characters as the points of view occasionally shift to Vicky’s third son, Adam, to the Congressional bunker, and to the antagonists.

This book is exactly what one would expect from a well-written post-apocalyptic thriller with lots of concern over how to survive and protect one’s family, but it is so much more than that. It raises a lot of questions about justice, cooperation, leadership, desperation, political infighting, having to deal with the loss of all of the electronics we rely upon today, and much more. The loss of electricity, basic sanitation, running water, and communications present problems that most have not faced in their lifetimes. Who will show courage, leadership, spirit, and ingenuity and who will let their fear, greed, and self-interest guide their actions?

The author brought a strong sense of time and place to the events in the book. I felt as though I had been transplanted to West Virginia and was living through the events. Additionally, the triggers for this book felt all too real.  My one quibble with the book is that while the point of view changed (which was fine), the time went back forth between days. I felt it would have been a smoother read if it was told sequentially and varied by point of view.

Overall, this book was riveting, fast-paced, action-oriented, and scary to think about. Would we have the skills to rebuild and survive if this actually happened? This is the second book that I have read by this author and the second in this series. I recommend that the series be read in order for best understanding of the characters, their backgrounds, and the events that have occurred. I can’t wait to find out what is next for Ortho, its residents, and the world. I also want to read Gilstrap’s Jonathan Grave series.

Kensington Books and John Gilstrap provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for February 22, 2022.

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