This is a book review of Laura Juntunen’s post-apocalyptic thriller, Transient Pulse, the first in her Shockwave trilogy.
If you like post-apocalyptic novels, road trips, dogs, and people surviving after a catastrophe (of course you do!), you’ll likely enjoy this fun and fast thriller. There are no spoilers in this review!
What is Transient Pulse About?
When the nation is hit by a mysterious shockwave, the resulting power outage interrupts the world as we know it. Everything that was powered on at the time of the transient pulse is destroyed, seizing cities and populations in mass explosions caused by the rippling aftershocks.
The lingering darkness severs society in two: those who choose ruinous control, stealing and murdering for provisions, and those who begin to create plans for long-term survival.
The latter includes Dixie, a strong yet hesitant young woman living in the heart of southern California. Dixie is forced to build plans to navigate the country to find a northern safe zone with Paul, a level-headed survivalist.
When Paul goes missing, Dixie must overcome her chronic uncertainty and make the first of many life-or-death decisions:
Will Dixie choose to wait for Paul, using up their limited supplies in the delay? Or, will Dixie begin the journey on her own, possibly having to turn to the dark side of society to survive?
An EMP apocalypse isn’t the most common of scenarios, so this aspect was very fun. There are some details about what occurred during the pulse, but most of the novel takes place in the aftermath.
Dixie is a wonderful character, with the best thing about her being how she’s so incredibly ordinary. She has a bit of a chip on her shoulder that explains some of the decisions she makes (most of her self-worth is wrapped up in the need to help people), but she’s also not a prepper, a survivalist, or even a badass (in being, for example, a secret agent or something like that). She’s just a regular woman who relies on her wits, her resilience, and her bravery to get through. In that regard, she’s very relatable, and I liked her.
The other characters we don’t come to learn about as much, though it was great to see three women working together and helping one another out. There’s also a dog named Krater!
The novel also has a lot of tropes we love in the genre, such as a bunker community, raiders (called Chasers, as they chase you in their cars), and the breakdown of society. The novel also suggest that maps are something that would be in demand in an apocalypse, a detail that was both interesting (I’d never seen that before in such a prevalent way) and realistic in our age of Google Maps.
The novel moves at a blistering pace. It’s very short and easy to follow, which was great, but I could have used more “hours on the road” moments to really hammer home how long their journey is. They’re driving from California to British Columbia, but we don’t get a lot of time on the road – mainly the woods and a few minutes on the highway. I wouldn’t have minded a few more pit stops along the route to let the women bond more. When we get action scenes, though, they are snappy and fun. The climax of the novel has a great amount of tension.
This novel does have a bit of a “this is a series” factor to it – there are unanswered questions that, I’m assuming, carry over into the next book. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but there are threads that aren’t tied up. This didn’t bother me, as I intend to read the rest!
What caused the apocalypse was very mimetic – Dixie is as without a clue as we are as to what caused the EMP that fried all technology. Was it people-made or caused by something like a solar flare? No one knows (at least in this book). As to whether the EMP would behave as she suggested it would, I honestly don’t know, but I found an interesting piece about how cars would function in an EMP’d world here.
The prose could have used a bit of tightening. There was a lot of telling and not showing, as well as passive voice. Yet, if that’s not something you’d notice as a reader, you probably will find it super fun and entertaining. It is super fun and entertaining! Perfect if you want a quick jaunt into the apocalypse with likable characters and good action!
You can purchase the novel on Amazon, here.
You can also find out more about the author here, where she also hosts a great writing podcast called Read it With Whiskey.