Atomic Ocean Landfall
by J.W. Delorie
Westwood Books Publishing

"Bright light quickly moved to engulf him as he ran across the smaller platform opposite the station’s entry. Soon after, projectiles from ancient machine guns pelted the ground around his landing footsteps."

In a ravaged, post-nuclear apocalypse, survivors must live with firestorms and mutant creatures known as Uprights. Potential danger lurks everywhere. To find it, Samuel Jackson Knight (Sam) sends forth his trusty German Shepherd, Max. Frank, a fellow soldier and drot (drone) operator, scans the treacherous landscape from the skies above. Fury, a feisty female soldier reminiscent of Lara Croft, and Acorn, a man whose name does not match his size, also accompany this unlikely trifecta. Together, this team works not only to survive the wasteland they now inhabit but also to rejuvenate Earth, return it to its former state, and restore what is left of humanity in a mission known as Ocean One. Along the way, however, the group battles the Circle of Hope Foundation, a group led by The Matron, a wicked Maleficent-like figure who attempts to steal Sam's equipment for her own nefarious needs and deeds.

This book tackles multiple themes, most notably environmental justice: "Light from red lightning pronounced the karst topography Sam's team now traveled through." As readers observe Sam's relationship with Max, they see, on one level, a stereotypical relationship between a man and his dog. On another level, Max, as she warns her human companions about the dangers they cannot sense, becomes the novel's heroine: "Sam's hand glided over Max's head and down her back, he knew from Fury's smile that she did not mind Max joining them as they followed Acorn and Frank's drot." Max's presence reminds readers of the careful and fragile balance humanity must maintain with nature. Max also teaches readers an important lesson: instead of destroying nature and its inhabitants, humankind must learn to respect it. All too often, humankind must resort to relying on it in a way that even the Romantics of the past could not have imagined.

The novel's action primarily lies in its dialogue, which creates the book's fast pace that quickly absorbs readers. Another writing approach that facilitates the story's action-packed structure is the short, simple sentences surrounding the dialogue that reinforce the swift, in-the-moment action: "Faint beeping informed Sam that his friend studied the rear of the uni-car." Throughout the novel, simple sentences indented as a single paragraph build up this gut-punch approach and embody the main protagonist's split-second (but intuitive) thought process: "Sam looked down and watched Max jumping with attempts to help, his legs could not find any support except for his opponent." Thus, the novel's overall structure in itself symbolizes the unpredictable, ever-changing physical, emotional, and mental landscapes in which Sam, Max, Frank, Fury, and Acorn navigate.

In many ways, this book is Waterworld and On the Beach combined. With drots, wrist coms, and laser pistols, this book ranks right up there with other tech-oriented fiction such as Naimera: Absence of Grace. Fans of video games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. will find this book easily accessible because of its futuristic landscape and military-esque action. It's a great read for young adult readers as well, especially those who enjoy post-apocalyptic or dystopian literature and those new to such genres.

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